Development of polyploidy of scale-building cells in the wings of Manduca sexta.
The developing wings of butterflies and moths are composed of two epithelial monolayers. Each epithelial sheet is made up of two kinds of cells, diploid cells that make up the epidermal surface and body of the wing, and large polyploid cells that become the scale-building cells whose cytoplasmic projections develop into the scales that will cover the adult wing and bear the pigment pattern. We studied the development of polyploidization of the scale-building cells during the pupal stage of the tobacco hornworm moth, Manduca sexta. The endomitotic divisions of the presumptive scale-building cells and the mitotic divisions of the diploid epithelial cells begin on day 3 of the pupal stage and continue until day 7. We show that scales of different colors and positions on the wing differ in size, and that the size of the scale is proportional to the ploidy of the scale-building cell. Scale-building cells are arranged in irregular rows and within each row there is an alternation of ploidy levels, with the lower ploidy cells giving rise to the underscales and the higher ploidy cells giving rise to the cover scales that carry the color pattern. Along the wing there is a proximo-distal decreasing gradient of average ploidy and scale size. Scale-building cells of high ploidy are surrounded by fewer epidermal cells than those of low ploidy. This inverse relationship is known as Henke's compensation principle, which posits that the number of endomitoses of a pre-polyploid cell and the number of mitotic divisions of its diploid daughter cell add up to a constant. We show that the inverse relationship fits the predictions of the compensation principle and does not fit constraints imposed by packing density, and we discuss mechanisms that could give rise to the inverse relationship.
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