Transcriptional regulation underlying the temperature response of embryonic development rate in the winter moth

Natalie E. van Dis*, Judith E. Risse, Agata S. Pijl, Roelof A. Hut, Marcel E. Visser, Bregje Wertheim

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Climate change will strongly affect the developmental timing of insects, as their development rate depends largely on ambient temperature. However, we know little about the genetic mechanisms underlying the temperature sensitivity of embryonic development in insects. We investigated embryonic development rate in the winter moth (Operophtera brumata), a species with egg dormancy which has been under selection due to climate change. We used RNA sequencing to investigate which genes are involved in the regulation of winter moth embryonic development rate in response to temperature. Over the course of development, we sampled eggs before and after an experimental change in ambient temperature, including two early development weeks when the temperature sensitivity of eggs is low and two late development weeks when temperature sensitivity is high. We found temperature-responsive genes that responded in a similar way across development, as well as genes with a temperature response specific to a particular development week. Moreover, we identified genes whose temperature effect size changed around the switch in temperature sensitivity of development rate. Interesting candidate genes for regulating the temperature sensitivity of egg development rate included genes involved in histone modification, hormonal signalling, nervous system development and circadian clock genes. The diverse sets of temperature-responsive genes we found here indicate that there are many potential targets of selection to change the temperature sensitivity of embryonic development rate. Identifying for which of these genes there is genetic variation in wild insect populations will give insight into their adaptive potential in the face of climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5795-5812
Number of pages18
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number22
Early online date2022
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022


  • circadian clock genes
  • climate change adaptation
  • diapause
  • insect embryogenesis
  • RNAseq
  • temperature sensitivity


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