The Journal of biological chemistry

The FOXO transcription factor controls insect growth and development by regulating juvenile hormone degradation in the silkworm, Bombyx mori.

PMID 28490635


Forkhead box O (FOXO) functions as the terminal transcription factor of the insulin signaling pathway and regulates multiple physiological processes in many organisms, including lifespan in insects. However, how FOXO interacts with hormone signaling to modulate insect growth and development is largely unknown. Here, using the transgene-based CRISPR/Cas9 system, we generated and characterized mutants of the silkworm Bombyx mori FOXO (BmFOXO) to elucidate its physiological functions during development of this lepidopteran insect. The BmFOXO mutant (FOXO-M) exhibited growth delays from the first larval stage and showed precocious metamorphosis, pupating at the end of the fourth instar (trimolter) rather than at the end of the fifth instar as in the wild-type (WT) animals. However, different from previous reports on precocious metamorphosis caused by juvenile hormone (JH) deficiency in silkworm mutants, the total developmental time of the larval period in the FOXO-M was comparable with that of the WT. Exogenous application of 20-hydroxyecdysone (20E) or of the JH analog rescued the trimolter phenotype. RNA-seq and gene expression analyses indicated that genes involved in JH degradation but not in JH biosynthesis were up-regulated in the FOXO-M compared with the WT animals. Moreover, we identified several FOXO-binding sites in the promoter of genes coding for JH-degradation enzymes. These results suggest that FOXO regulates JH degradation rather than its biosynthesis, which further modulates hormone homeostasis to control growth and development in B. mori In conclusion, we have uncovered a pivotal role for FOXO in regulating JH signaling to control insect development.