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Uncovering Ligand-Receptors Interactions in Butterfly Wings: How WntA and Frizzled2 Work Together to Create Complex Patterns Open Access

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Lepidoptera wings are a promising model system for the study of the genetic basis for pattern formation. Previous research on the non-traditional model organism Vanessa cardui has shown how CRISPR/CAS9 mediated mutagenesis can reveal how a single gene, i.e. WntA, is responsible for complex morphological patterning. Moreover, the WntA signaling ligand gene has been shown to have an array of different phenotypic effects across a number of butterfly species. However, no insights on the receptor gene for this signaling molecule have been formally established for the Vanessa cardui, commonly known as the Painted Lady butterfly. The scientific literature suggests that there are a variety of developmental processes that require a combination of Wnt ligands and receptors to achieve complex results. Here, we attempt to elucidate the color patterning roles of a Frizzled family receptor frizzled-2 (fz2). In this project, we produced gene knockouts of fz2 and examined the genotypic-phenotypic contrast and/or similarities to wild types, as well as WntA mutants. The use of imaging and statistical analysis of the areas of the fz2 mutant’s eyespots, chevrons, as well as other regions provide a more quantitative approach to the data. This information will be important for highlighting the major and/or subtle differences between wing patterning in WntA and fz2 mutants. The results of this study support how CRISPR/CAS9 continues to be feasible genetic editing technique in Lepidoptera. Ultimately, this project provides a further understanding of the evolutionary and developmental characteristics of butterfly wing formation.

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