The control of body size in insects

Dev Biol. 2003 Sep 1;261(1):1-9. doi: 10.1016/s0012-1606(03)00276-8.


Control mechanisms that regulate body size and tissue size have been sought at both the cellular and organismal level. Cell-level studies have revealed much about the control of cell growth and cell division, and how these processes are regulated by nutrition. Insulin signaling is the key mediator between nutrition and the growth of internal organs, such as imaginal disks, and is required for the normal proportional growth of the body and its various parts. The insulin-related peptides of insects do not appear to control growth by themselves, but act in conjunction with other hormones and signaling molecules, such as ecdysone and IDGFs. Size regulation cannot be understood solely on the basis of the mechanisms that control cell size and cell number. Size regulation requires mechanisms that gather information on a scale appropriate to the tissue or organ being regulated. A new model mechanism, using autocrine signaling, is outlined by which tissue and organ size regulation can be achieved. Body size regulation likewise requires a mechanism that integrates information at an appropriate scale. In insects, this mechanism operates by controlling the secretion of ecdysone, which is the signal that terminates the growth phase of development. The mechanisms for size assessment and the pathways by which they trigger ecdysone secretion are diverse and can be complex. The ways in which these higher-level regulatory mechanisms interact with cell- and molecular- level mechanisms are beginning to be elucidated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Body Constitution / physiology
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Size
  • Insect Hormones / physiology
  • Insecta / anatomy & histology*
  • Insecta / genetics
  • Insecta / growth & development
  • Insecta / physiology
  • Insulin / physiology
  • Models, Biological
  • Signal Transduction


  • Insect Hormones
  • Insulin
  • prothoracicotropic hormone