"Background: The European spurge hawkmoth, Hyles euphorbiae (Lepidoptera, Sphingidae), has been intensively studied as a model organism for insect chemical ecology, cold hardiness and evolution of species delineation. To understand species isolation mechanisms at a molecular level, this study aims at determining genetic factors underlying two adaptive ecological trait candidates, phorbol ester (TPA) detoxification and seasonal cold acclimation.
Method: A draft transcriptome of H. euphorbiae was generated using Illumina sequencing, providing the first genomic resource for the hawkmoth subfamily Macroglossinae. RNA expression levels in tissues of experimental TPA feeding larvae and cooled pupae was compared to levels in control larvae and pupae using 26 bp RNA sequence tag libraries (DeepSuperSAGE). Differential gene expression was assessed by homology searches of the tags in the transcriptome.
Results: In total, 389 and 605 differentially expressed transcripts for detoxification and cold hardiness, respectively, could be identified and annotated with proteins. The majority (22 of 28) of differentially expressed detox transcripts of the four 'drug metabolism' enzyme groups (cytochrome P450 (CYP), carboxylesterases (CES), glutathione S-transferases (GST) and lipases) are up-regulated. Triacylglycerol lipase was significantly over proportionally annotated among up-regulated detox transcripts. We record several up-regulated lipases, GSTe2, two CESs, CYP9A21, CYP6BD6 and CYP9A17 as candidate genes for further H. euphorbiae TPA detoxification analyses. Differential gene expression of the cold acclimation treatment is marked by metabolic depression with enriched Gene Ontology terms among down-regulated transcripts almost exclusively comprising metabolism, aerobic respiration and dissimilative functions. Down-regulated transcripts include energy expensive respiratory proteins like NADH dehydrogenase, cytochrome oxidase and ATP synthase. Gene expression patterns show shifts in carbohydrate metabolism towards cryoprotectant production. The Glycolysis enzymes, G1Pase, A1e, Gpi and an Akr isoform are up-regulated. Glycerol, an osmolyte which lowers the body liquid supercooling point, appears to be the predominant polyol cryoprotectant in H. euphorbiae diapause pupae. Several protein candidates involved in glucose, glycerol, myo-inositol and potentially sorbitol and trehalose synthesis were identified.
Conclusions: A majority of differently expressed transcripts unique for either detoxification or cold hardiness indicates highly specialized functional adaptation which may have evolved from general cell metabolism and stress response.The transcriptome and extracted candidate biomarkers provide a basis for further gene expression studies of physiological processes and adaptive traits in H. euphorbiae."