In the patterns of butterfly wings: A new tool for functional gene testing

Research Areas:

Butterfly wing, Pattern formation, Gene transfer, Gene insertion, Baculovirus vector, Green fluorescence protein

Imaging Needs:

High sensitivity

Imaging System:
  • Nikon Eclipse Ti-U inverted epifluorescence microscope
  • Intensilight C-HGFI mercury pre-centered fiber illumination system
  • Coherent Sapphire 488 nm laser generator
  • Nikon GFP-B fluorescent cube
    • excitation filter: 460–500 nm
    • dichroic mirror: 505 nm
    • emission filter 510–520 nm
  • Yokogawa Electric CSU-X1 confocal scanner unit
  • Hamamatsu Photonics ImagEM EM-CCD camera
  • Hamamatsu Photonics AQUACOSMOS 2.6 analysis system
Imaging cellular events in real time

Find out how Fang Huang, Jeorg Bewersdorf and colleagues use the sCMOS technology in the ORCA-Flash4.0 camera to achieve video-rate imaging at nanometer scales. Read now.


How do butterfly wings get their spots?

Butterfly wings are a striking example of gene-driven patterning in the wild. Features such as large, ringed eyespots occur frequently, generation after generation. Understanding how the butterfly genome produces these colorful markers could provide clues into the genetic regulation of patterning in other insects.


Many candidate genes for butterfly wing patterns have been found based on gene expression patterns. However, the lack of a method to manipulate gene expression in growing pupae has prevented clear proof of the candidate genes’ effects on wing coloration.


Baculovirus-mediated gene transfer in butterfly wings in vivo: an efficient expression system with an anti-gp64 antibody
Bidur Dhungel, Yoshikazu Ohno, Rie Matayoshi and Joji M Otaki
BMC Biotechnol. 2013. 13(27). doi:10.1186/1472-6750-13-27.

Dhungel, et al,1 provide a new approach for studying the genetics of butterfly wing patterning. The researchers developed a recombinant baculovirus carrying a gene for green fluorescent protein (GFP) as a means to confirm gene insertion and expression. Combined with an anti-baculovirus antibody to aid pupae survival, the new approach worked; GFP appeared in multiple tissues, including normally patterned wings. The research team located GFP expression in the wing scales and epidermis with the help of a Hamamatsu ImagEM camera. The authors present the new method as a tool for transferring, expressing, and studying the function of foreign genes in butterflies and other insects.


Dhungel, et al., leveraged the sensitivity of Hamamatsu’s ImagEM camera to visualize the expression of inserted genes in butterfly wings. Imagine what’s possible with the even faster capabilities and wider fields-of-view of Hamamatsu’s ORCA-Flash4.0 technology. Learn more, read Exciting Advances Push the Limits of Visualization.


  1. Dhungel, et al. Baculovirus-mediated gene transfer in butterfly wings in vivo: an efficient expression system with an anti-gp64 antibody. BMC Biotechnol. 2013. 13(27). doi:10.1186/1472-6750-13-27.
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