What determines whether an individual will become a male or a female? This question has always triggered interest among experts and non-experts. It turns out that there is no simple answer to this question, because over the course of evolution, nature has produced many variations on the
theme of sex determination. This becomes particularly interesting for crop insect pests, whose seks determination are influenced by seasonal changes in environmental signals. For example, the pea aphid is a devastating crop pest with a fascinating, complex life cycle that includes alterations between various sexual forms. During the summer months, live-bearing asexual females
reproduce and no males are found in the population while in autumn, sexual individuals are produced, that is, egg-bearing females and males. How this happens is not yet fully understood. This project seeks to investigate the underlying genetic and epigenetic mechanisms which lead to sex determination in pea aphids. This will be achieved by studying the function of key genetic and
epigenetic elements involved in the sex determining signaling cascade, starting from when the mother receives the sex switch signal and through to the offspring where sex switch occurs. The results of this project should broaden our current knowledge on how sex control mechanisms and
regulatory principles evolve functionally in developmental processes.