Rhodnius Heme-Binding Protein (RHBP) Is a Heme Source for Embryonic Development in the Blood-Sucking Bug Rhodnius Prolixus (Hemiptera, Reduviidae)

Insect Biochem Mol Biol. 2002 Apr;32(4):361-7. doi: 10.1016/s0965-1748(01)00163-1.


We have previously shown that Rhodnius prolixus' eggs and hemolymph are pink due to the presence of the hemeprotein Rhodnius heme-binding protein (RHBP). In the hemolymph it functions as an antioxidant. Nevertheless, its function in eggs has not been determined. Here we present evidence that RHBP is a source of heme for embryonic development. RHBP content decreases during embryogenesis, but the total heme content of eggs remains unchanged. Biliverdin, the product of heme degradation, is not detectable in late embryos. The activity of the heme-synthesizing pathway is low throughout embryogenesis and rises sharply after nymphs' hatching. Heme-radiolabeled eggs were produced and, at the day of hatching, nymphs were dissected. The presence of radiolabeled heme in their carcass is an indication that heme reutilization is occurring. The only animal known to reutilize heme in significant levels is the cattle tick Boophilus microplus, which cannot synthesize its own heme. Diversely, Rhodnius can synthesize its own heme but, in the context of embryogenesis, heme demand seems to be supplied by the programmed release of heme form RHBP. This behavior indicates that in Rhodnius, we might have a highly unusual profile: heme is both synthesized and reutilized.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Heme / metabolism*
  • Heme-Binding Proteins
  • Hemeproteins / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Rhodnius / embryology
  • Rhodnius / metabolism*


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Heme-Binding Proteins
  • Hemeproteins
  • Heme