Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Developmental biology

Earn your wings

The ecological success of the migratory brown planthopper (Nilaparvata lugens; pictured), a rice pest, depends on its ability to develop into two different forms in response to environmental cues. On page 464 of this issue, Xu et al. show that, during development, the binary action of two distinct insulin receptor proteins, dubbed NlInR1 and NlInR2, controls the switch between these two forms (H.-J. Xu et al. Nature 519, 464–467; 2015).

Credit: Chuan-Xi Zhang

The long-winged planthopper escapes adverse habitats to search for resources, whereas the short-winged form is highly fertile, but cannot fly. The authors delineate a molecular signalling cascade, in which the production of an insulin peptide in the brain acts on NlInR1 to trigger the formation of long wings. NlInR2 impedes the action of the cascade to prevent wing growth. The relative expression levels of each receptor therefore determine which form each planthopper adopts.

These results help to show how environmental cues regulate generation of the highly fertile short-winged insects, and could be used to develop ways to control these agricultural pests.Footnote 1


  1. 1.

    See all news & views


Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Le Bot, N. Earn your wings. Nature 519, 420 (2015).

Download citation


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing