Whole-mount in situ hybridization of sectioned tissues of species hybrids to detect cis-regulatory changes in gene expression pattern.
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To distinguish whether differences in gene expression between species or between individuals of the same species are caused by cis-regulatory changes or by distribution differences in trans-regulatory proteins, comparison of species-specific mRNA expression in an F1 hybrid by whole-mount in situ hybridization is a rarely used yet very powerful tool. If asymmetric expression pattern is observed for the two alleles, this implies a cis-regulatory divergence of this gene. Alternatively, if symmetric expression pattern is observed for both alleles, the change in expression of this gene is probably caused by changes in the distribution of trans-regulatory proteins. In this chapter, I describe how to prepare RNA probes, tissue samples and how to detect mRNA expression pattern using in situ hybridization. Although I choose to present here the detection of yellow-related gene (YRG) expression pattern in the larval epidermis of swallowtail butterflies, this protocol can be adapted to other species and tissues. YRG mRNA expression is correlated with interspecific differences of yellow and green larval color pattern such as V-shaped markings in swallowtail butterflies. F1 hybrids show an intermediate color pattern between parental species. In this case, both species-specific YRG mRNA showed a similar expression pattern in F1 hybrids, suggesting that the change in expression of YRG is mainly caused by changes in the distribution of trans-regulatory proteins.


Gene Expression

MeSH terms

Base Sequence
Crosses, Genetic
Gene Expression Regulation
Hybridization, Genetic
In Situ Hybridization
Molecular Sequence Data
Organ Specificity
RNA Probes
RNA, Messenger
Regulatory Sequences, Nucleic Acid
Species Specificity


Futahashi, Ryo

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