Research labs

Evolution of Insect Metamorphosis lab

The scientific interests of this lab are based around the mechanisms that regulate metamorphosis in insects, and how these mechanisms have evolved from ancestral species with a gradual metamorphosis (like in cockroaches, locusts or aphids), to the most modified species, with a discontinuous metamorphosis (like in butterflies, beetles and flies). Therefore, the questions this lab tries to answer are: How did metamorphosis in insects develop? What endocrine and molecular mechanisms propitiated the evolutionary transition from gradual to discontinuous metamorphosis?

Principal investigator: Xavier Bellés

Members of the lab: Guillem Ylla, PhD Student; Orathai Kamsoi, PhD Student; Ana Fernandez, PhD Student, and Alba Ventós, PhD Student

Congresses organised: 1

Oral presentations and talks given: 9

Main publications and other research activities:

Fernandez-Nicolas A, Belles X. 2017. Juvenile hormone signaling in short germ-band hemimetabolan embryos. Development 144(24): 4637-4644.

Ylla G, Piulachs MD, Belles X. 2017. Comparative analysis of miRNA expression during the development of insects of different metamorphosis modes and germ-band types. BMC Genomics 18(1): 774.

Belles X. 2017. MicroRNAs and the Evolution of Insect Metamorphosis. Annual Review of Entomology 62: 111–125.

Lin YH, Huang JH, Liu Y, Belles X, Lee HJ. 2017. Oral delivery of dsRNA lipoplexes to German cockroach protects dsRNA from degradation and induces RNAi response. Pest Management Science 73: 960–966.

Korb J, Belles X. 2017. Juvenile hormone and hemimetabolan eusociality: a comparison of cockroaches with termites. Current Opinion in Insect Science. 22: 109-116.

Borras-Castells F, Nieva C, Maestro JL, Maestro O, Belles X, Martin D. 2017. Juvenile hormone biosynthesis in adult Blattella germanica requires nuclear receptors Seven-up and FTZ-F1. Sci. Rep. 7: 40234.

Main outreach activities: The lab undertook 7 outreach activities in 2017, mainly talks in schools, café-debates, city halls and scientific associations.

Funding (active projects in 2017 only):

Name of the project Key transitions in the embryogenesis of a hemimetabolan insect. Juvenile hormone, transcription factors and microRNAs
Principal investigator Xavier Belles
Funding institution Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, Spain


Name of the project Modifying plants to produce interfering RNA
Principal investigator Bruno Mezzetti (Xavier Belles: Spanish Delegate for the Management Committee)
Funding institution EU, COST Action


Name of the project Genòmica Funcional i Evolució (SGR)
Principal investigator Xavier Belles
Funding institution Generalitat de Catalunya, Direcció General de Recerca, AGAUR


Name of the project FY2017 JSPS Invitational Fellowship for Research in Japan
Principal investigator Xavier Belles
Funding institution Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS)

More information: Evolution of Insect Metamorphosis lab’s website

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