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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Integrated miRNA and transcriptome profiling to explore the molecular determinism of convergent adaptation to corn in two lepidopteran pests of agriculture

Gimenez, Sylvie; Seninet, Imene; Orsucci, Marion; Audiot, Philippe; Negre, Nicolas; Nam, Kiwoong; Streiff, Rejane; d'Alencon, Emmanuelle


BackgroundThe degree to which adaptation to same environment is determined by similar molecular mechanisms, is a topic of broad interest in evolutionary biology, as an indicator of evolutionary predictability. We wished to address if adaptation to the same host plant in phytophagous insects involved related gene expression patterns. We compared sRNA-Seq and RNA-Seq data between two pairs of taxa of Ostrinia and Spodoptera frugiperda sharing maize as host-plant. For the latter, we had previously carried out a reciprocal transplant experiment by feeding of the larvae of the Corn strain (Sf-C) and the Rice strain (Sf-R) on corn versus rice and characterized the mRNA and miRNA responses.ResultsFirst, we predicted the genes encoding miRNA in Ostrinia nubilalis (On) and O. scapulalis (Os). Respectively 67 and 65 known miRNA genes, as well as 196 and 190 novel ones were predicted with Os genome using sncRNAs extracted from whole larvae feeding on corn or mugwort. In On, a read counts analysis showed that 37 (55.22%) known miRNAs and 19 (9.84%) novel miRNAs were differentially expressed (DE) on mugwort compared to corn (in Os, 25 known miRs (38.46%) and 8 novel ones (4.34%)). Between species on corn, 8 (12.5%) known miRNAs and 8 (6.83%) novel ones were DE while only one novel miRNA showed expression variation between species on mugwort. Gene target prediction led to the identification of 2953 unique target genes in On and 2719 in Os, among which 11.6% (344) were DE when comparing species on corn. 1.8% (54) of On miR targets showed expression variation upon a change of host-plant.We found molecular changes matching convergent phenotype, i.e., a set of nine miRNAs that are regulated either according to the host-plant both in On and Sf-C or between them on the same plant, corn. Among DE miR target genes between taxa, 13.7% shared exactly the same annotation between the two pairs of taxa and had function related to insect host-plant interaction.ConclusionThere is some similarity in underlying genetic mechanisms of convergent evolution of two distant Lepidopteran species having adopted corn in their host range, highlighting possible adaptation genes.


Adaptation; Phenotypic plasticity; Genetic convergence; Regulation of gene expression; Insect plant interaction; microRNAs

Published in

BMC Genomics
2021, volume: 22, number: 1, article number: 606
Publisher: BMC

Authors' information

Gimenez, Sylvie
Universite de Montpellier
Seninet, Imene
Universite de Montpellier
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Plant Biology
University of Montpellier
Audiot, Philippe
Universite de Montpellier
Negre, Nicolas
Universite de Montpellier
Nam, Kiwoong
Universite de Montpellier
Streiff, Rejane
Universite de Montpellier
d'Alencon, Emmanuelle
Universite de Montpellier

UKÄ Subject classification

Evolutionary Biology

Publication Identifiers


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