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Gene expression profiling across ontogenetic stages in the wood white (Leptidea sinapis) reveals pathways linked to butterfly diapause regulation

  • Luis Leal
  • Venkat Talla
  • Thomas Källman
  • Magne Friberg
  • Christer Wiklund
  • Vlad Dincă
  • Roger Vila
  • Niclas Backström
Publishing year: 2018-02-26
Language: English
Pages: 935-948
Publication/Series: Molecular Ecology
Volume: 27
Issue: 4
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell

Abstract english

In temperate latitudes, many insects enter diapause (dormancy) during the cold season, a period during which developmental processes come to a standstill. The wood white (Leptidea sinapis) is a butterfly species distributed across western Eurasia that shows photoperiod-induced diapause with variation in critical day-length across populations at different latitudes. We assembled transcriptomes and estimated gene expression levels at different developmental stages in experimentally induced directly developing and diapausing cohorts of a single Swedish population of L. sinapis to investigate the regulatory mechanisms underpinning diapause initiation. Different day lengths resulted in expression changes of developmental genes and affected the rate of accumulation of signal molecules, suggesting that diapause induction might be controlled by increased activity of monoamine neurotransmitters in larvae reared under short-day light conditions. Expression differences between light treatment groups of two monoamine regulator genes (DDC and ST) were observed already in instar III larvae. Once developmental pathways were irreversibly set at instar V, a handful of genes related to dopamine production were differentially expressed leading to a significant decrease in expression of global metabolic genes and increase in expression of genes related to fatty acid synthesis and sequestration. This is in line with a time-dependent (hour-glass) model of diapause regulation where a gradual shift in the concentration of monoamine neurotransmitters and their metabolites during development of larvae under short-day conditions leads to increased storage of fat, decreased energy expenditures, and ultimately developmental stasis at the pupal stage.


  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Developmental plasticity
  • Diapause
  • Gene expression
  • Hour-glass model
  • Lepidoptera
  • Monoamine neurotransmitter


  • ISSN: 0962-1083
Magne Friberg
E-mail: magne [dot] friberg [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

Associate senior lecturer


+46 46 222 89 68


Sölvegatan 37, Lund


Research group

Evolutionary Ecology of Plant–Insect Interactions


Magne Friberg lab

Doctoral Students and Postdocs

Main supervisor

Hampus Petrén

Assistant supervisor

Isidora Longarevic


Karin Gross