skip to main content

This content will become publicly available on September 1, 2024

Title: Comparative anatomy of venom glands suggests a role of maternal secretions in gall induction by cynipid wasps (Hymenoptera: Cynipidae)

Many herbivorous insect species are capable of hijacking plant development to induce novel plant organs called galls. In most groups of galling insects, the insect organs and molecular signals involved in gall induction are poorly understood. We focused on gall wasps (Hymenoptera:Cynipidae), the second largest clade of gall inducers (~1,400 spp.), for which the developmental stages and organs responsible for gall development are unclear. We investigated the female metasomal anatomy of 69 gall-inducing and 29 non-gall-inducing species across each of the major lineages of Cynipoidea, to test relationships between this lifestyle and the relative size of secretory organs. We confirmed that the venom apparatus in gall-inducing species is greatly expanded, although gall-inducing lineages vary in the relative size of these glands. Among these gallers, we measured the largest venom gland apparatus relative to body size ever recorded in insects. Non-galling inquiline species are accompanied by a reduction of this apparatus. Comparative microscopic analysis of venom glands suggests varying venom gland content across the lineages. Some oak gallers also had enlarged accessory glands, a lipid-rich organ whose function remains unclear, and which has not been previously studied in relation to gall formation. Together, the massive expansion of secretory organs specifically in gall-inducing species suggests a role of these secretions in the process of gall formation, and the variance in size of venom glands, accessory glands, and the contents of these glands among gallers, suggests that gall formation across this clade is likely to employ a diversity of molecular strategies.

more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ;
Bond, Jason
Publisher / Repository:
Entomological Society of America
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Insect Systematics and Diversity
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. How evolution at the cellular level potentiates change at the macroevolutionary level is a major question in evolutionary biology. With >66,000 described species, rove beetles (Staphylinidae) comprise the largest metazoan family. Their exceptional radiation has been coupled to pervasive biosynthetic innovation whereby numerous lineages bear defensive glands with diverse chemistries. Here, we combine comparative genomic and single-cell transcriptomic data from across the largest rove beetle clade, Aleocharinae. We retrace the functional evolution of two novel secretory cell types that together comprise the tergal gland—a putative catalyst behind Aleocharinae’s megadiversity. We identify key genomic contingencies that were critical to the assembly of each cell type and their organ-level partnership in manufacturing the beetle’s defensive secretion. This process hinged on evolving a mechanism for regulated production of noxious benzoquinones that appears convergent with plant toxin release systems, and synthesis of an effective benzoquinone solvent that weaponized the total secretion. We show that this cooperative biosynthetic system arose at the Jurassic-Cretaceous boundary, and that following its establishment, both cell types underwent ∼150 million years of stasis, their chemistry and core molecular architecture maintained almost clade-wide as Aleocharinae radiated globally into tens of thousands of lineages. Despite this deep conservation, we show that the two cell types have acted as substrates for the emergence of adaptive, biochemical novelties—most dramatically in symbiotic lineages that have infiltrated social insect colonies and produce host behavior-manipulating secretions. Our findings uncover genomic and cell type evolutionary processes underlying the origin, functional conservation and evolvability of a chemical innovation in beetles. 
    more » « less
  2. Abstract Background

    Aquatic species in several clades possess cement glands producing adhesive secretions of various strengths. In vertebrates, transient adhesive organs have been extensively studied inXenopus laevis, other anurans, and in several fish species. However, the development of these structures is not fully understood.


    Here, we report on the development and functional morphology of the adhesive gland of a giant danio species,Devario malabaricus. We found that the gland is localized on the larval head, is composed of goblet‐like secretory cells framed by basal, bordering, and intercalated apical epithelial cells, and is innervated by the trigeminal ganglion. The gland allows nonswimming larvae to adhere to various substrates. Its secretory cells differentiate by 12 hours postfertilization and begin to disappear in the second week of life. Exogenous retinoic acid disrupts the gland's patterning. More importantly, the single mature gland emerges from fusion of two differentiated secretory cells fields; this fusion is dependent on nonmuscle myosin II function.


    Taken together, our studies provide the first documentation of the embryonic development, structure, and function of the adhesive apparatus of adanioninae. To our knowledge, this is also the first report of a cement gland arising from convergence of two bilateral fields.

    more » « less
  3. ABSTRACT The venom glands of reptiles, particularly those of front-fanged advanced snakes, must satisfy conflicting biological demands: rapid synthesis of potentially labile and highly toxic proteins, storage in the gland lumen for long periods, stabilization of the stored secretions, immediate activation of toxins upon deployment and protection of the animal from the toxic effects of its own venom. This dynamic system could serve as a model for the study of a variety of different phenomena involving exocrine gland activation, protein synthesis, stabilization of protein products and secretory mechanisms. However, these studies have been hampered by a lack of a long-term model that can be propagated in the lab (as opposed to whole-animal studies). Numerous attempts have been made to extend the lifetime of venom gland secretory cells, but only recently has an organoid model been shown to have the requisite qualities of recapitulation of the native system, self-propagation and long-term viability (>1 year). A tractable model is now available for myriad cell- and molecular-level studies of venom glands, protein synthesis and secretion. However, venom glands of reptiles are not identical, and many differ very extensively in overall architecture, microanatomy and protein products produced. This Review summarizes the similarities among and differences between venom glands of helodermatid lizards and of rear-fanged and front-fanged snakes, highlighting those areas that are well understood and identifying areas where future studies can fill in significant gaps in knowledge of these ancient, yet fascinating systems. 
    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Many insect species have acquired the ability to redirect plant development to form unique organs called galls, which provide these insects with unique, enhanced food and protection from enemies and the elements. Many galls resemble flowers or fruits, suggesting that elements of reproductive development may be involved. We tested this hypothesis using RNA sequencing to quantify the transcriptional responses of wild grapevine (Vitis riparia) leaves to a galling parasite, phylloxera (Daktulosphaira vitifoliae). If development of reproductive structures is part of gall formation, we expected to find significantly elevated expression of genes involved in flower and/or fruit development in developing galls as opposed to ungalled leaves. We found that reproductive gene ontology categories were significantly enriched in developing galls, and that expression of many candidate genes involved in floral development were significantly increased, particularly in later gall stages. The patterns of gene expression found in galls suggest that phylloxera exploits vascular cambium to provide meristematic tissue and redirects leaf development towards formation of carpels. The phylloxera leaf gall appears to be phenotypically and transcriptionally similar to the carpel, due to the parasite hijacking underlying genetic machinery in the host plant.

    more » « less
  5. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Despite the extensive body of research on snake venom, many facets of snake venom systems, such as the physiology and regulation of the venom gland itself, remain virtually unstudied. Here, we use time series gene expression analyses of the rattlesnake venom gland in comparison with several non-venom tissues to characterize physiological and cellular processes associated with venom production and to highlight key distinctions of venom gland cellular and physiological function. We find consistent evidence for activation of stress response pathways in the venom gland, suggesting that mitigation of cellular stress is a crucial component of venom production. Additionally, we demonstrate evidence for an unappreciated degree of cellular and secretory activity in the steady state venom gland relative to other secretory tissues and identify vacuolar ATPases as the likely mechanisms driving acidification of the venom gland lumen during venom production and storage. 
    more » « less