Overproduction of the insecticide-degrading esterases, E4 and FE4, in peach-potato aphids, Myzus persicae (Sulzer), depends on both gene amplification and transcriptional control, the latter being associated with changes in DNA methylation. The structure and function of the aphid esterase genes have been studied but the determination of their copy number has proved difficult, a common problem with gene amplification. We have now used a combination of pulsed-field gel electrophoresis and quantitative competitive PCR to determine relative esterase gene copy numbers in aphid clones with different levels of insecticide resistance (R1, R2 and R3). There are approx. 4-fold increases between susceptible, R1, R2 and R3 aphids, reaching a maximum of approx. 80 times more genes in R3; this gives proportionate increases in esterase protein relative to susceptible aphids. Thus there is no overexpression of the amplified genes, in contrast with what was thought previously. For E4 genes, the loss of 5-methylcytosine is correlated with a loss of expression, greatly decreasing the amount of enzyme relative to the copy number.
- DNA methylation
- gene amplification
- The Biochemical Society, London © 1999