The diets of animals are essential to support development, and protein is key. Accumulation of stored nutrients can support developmental events such as molting and initiation of reproduction. Agricultural studies have addressed how dietary protein quality affects growth, but few studies have addressed the effects of dietary protein quality on developmental transitions. Studies on how dietary quality may affect protein storage and development are possible in arthropods, which store proteins in the hemolymph. We hypothesized that diets with a composition of amino acids that matches the precursor of egg yolk protein (vitellogenin, Vg) will be high quality and support both egg production and accumulation of storage proteins. Grasshoppers were fed one of two isonitrogenous solutions of amino acids daily: Vg-balanced (matched to Vg) or Unbalanced (same total moles of amino acids, but not matched to egg yolk). We measured reproduction and storage protein levels in serial hemolymph samples from individuals. The Vg-balanced group had greater reproduction and greater cumulative levels of storage proteins than did the Unbalanced group. This occurred even though amino acids fed to the Vg-balanced group were not a better match to storage protein than were the amino acids fed to the Unbalanced group. Further, oviposition timing was best explained by a combination of diet, age at the maximum level of storage protein hexamerin-270 and accumulation of hexamerin-90. Our study tightens the link between storage proteins and commitment to reproduction, and shows that dietary protein quality is vital for protein storage and reproduction.

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