Cloning and characterization of an Mrna encoding an insulin receptor from the horned scarab beetle Onthophagus nigriventris (COLEOPTERA: SCARABAEIDAE)

Laura Corley Lavine, Laura L. Hahn, Ian A. Warren, Stephen F. Garczynski, Ian Dworkin, Douglas J. Emlen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


The insulin signaling pathway is the primary signaling pathway coupling growth with nutritional condition in all animals. Sensitivity to circulating levels of insulin has been shown to regulate the growth of specific traits in a dose-dependent manner in response to environmental conditions in a diversity of insect species. Alternative phenotypes in insects manifest in a variety of morphologies such as the sexually dimorphic and male dimorphic horned beetles. Large males of the sexually dimorphic dung beetle Onthophagus nigriventris develop a thoracic horn up to twice the length of the body whereas small males and females never develop this horn. The regulation of this dimorphism is known to be nutrition dependent for males. We focused on the insulin signaling pathway as a potential regulator of this dimorphism. We sequenced a full-length gene transcript encoding the O. nigriventris insulin receptor (OnInR), which is the receptor for circulating insulin and insulin-like peptides in animals. We show that the predicted OnInR protein is similar in overall amino acid identity to other insulin receptors (InRs) and is most closely related phylogenetically to insect InRs. Expression of the OnInR transcript was found during development of imaginal tissues in both males and females. However, expression of OnInR in the region where a horn would grow of small males and female was significantly higher than in the horn tissues of large males at the end of growth. This variation in OnInR expression between sexes and morphs indicates a role for the InR in polymorphic horn development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-57
Number of pages15
JournalArchives of Insect Biochemistry and Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013


  • Insulin receptor
  • Insulin signaling pathway
  • Onthophagus nigriventris
  • Polyphenism


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