4 years ago

Macroevolutionary shifts of WntA function potentiate butterfly wing-pattern diversity [Evolution]

Macroevolutionary shifts of WntA function potentiate butterfly wing-pattern diversity [Evolution]
Carolina Concha, Chris D. Jiggins, Robert D. Reed, Marcus R. Kronforst, Joseph D. Papador, Nipam H. Patel, Casper J. Breuker, Anyi Mazo-Vargas, Arnaud Martin, Linlin Zhang, Darli Massardo, W. Owen McMillan, Daniel Martinez-Najera, Luca Livraghi, Richard W. R. Wallbank

Butterfly wing patterns provide a rich comparative framework to study how morphological complexity develops and evolves. Here we used CRISPR/Cas9 somatic mutagenesis to test a patterning role for WntA, a signaling ligand gene previously identified as a hotspot of shape-tuning alleles involved in wing mimicry. We show that WntA loss-of-function causes multiple modifications of pattern elements in seven nymphalid butterfly species. In three butterflies with a conserved wing-pattern arrangement, WntA is necessary for the induction of stripe-like patterns known as symmetry systems and acquired a novel eyespot activator role specific to Vanessa forewings. In two Heliconius species, WntA specifies the boundaries between melanic fields and the light-color patterns that they contour. In the passionvine butterfly Agraulis, WntA removal shows opposite effects on adjacent pattern elements, revealing a dual role across the wing field. Finally, WntA acquired a divergent role in the patterning of interveinous patterns in the monarch, a basal nymphalid butterfly that lacks stripe-like symmetry systems. These results identify WntA as an instructive signal for the prepatterning of a biological system of exuberant diversity and illustrate how shifts in the deployment and effects of a single developmental gene underlie morphological change.

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