Complex steroid-peptide-receptor cascade controls insect ecdysis

Gen Comp Endocrinol. Aug-Sep 2007;153(1-3):88-96. doi: 10.1016/j.ygcen.2007.04.002. Epub 2007 Apr 11.


Insect ecdysis sequence is composed of pre-ecdysis, ecdysis and post-ecdysis behaviors controlled by a complex cascade of peptide hormones from endocrine Inka cells and neuropeptides in the central nervous system (CNS). Inka cells produce pre-ecdysis and ecdysis triggering hormones (ETH) which activate the ecdysis sequence through receptor-mediated actions on specific neurons in the CNS. Multiple experimental approaches have been used to determine mechanisms of ETH expression and release from Inka cells and its action on the CNS of moths and flies. During the preparatory phase 1-2 days prior to ecdysis, high ecdysteroid levels induce expression of ETH receptors in the CNS and increased ETH production in Inka cells, which coincides with expression of nuclear ecdysone receptor (EcR) and transcription factor cryptocephal (CRC). However, high ecdysteroid levels prevent ETH release from Inka cells. Acquisition of Inka cell competence to release ETH requires decline of ecdysteroid levels and beta-FTZ-F1 expression few hours prior to ecdysis. The behavioral phase is initiated by ETH secretion into the hemolymph, which is controlled by two brain neuropeptides-corazonin and eclosion hormone (EH). Corazonin acts on its receptor in Inka cells to elicit low level ETH secretion and initiation of pre-ecdysis, while EH induces cGMP-mediated ETH depletion and consequent activation of ecdysis. The activation of both behaviors is accomplished by ETH action on central neurons expressing ETH receptors A and B (ETHR-A and B). These neurons produce numerous excitatory or inhibitory neuropeptides which initiate or terminate different phases of the ecdysis sequence. Our data indicate that insect ecdysis is a very complex process characterized by two principal steps: (1) ecdysteroid-induced expression of receptors and transcription factors in the CNS and Inka cells. (2) Release and interaction of Inka cell peptide hormones and multiple central neuropeptides to control consecutive phases of the ecdysis sequence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Ecdysteroids / physiology
  • Insect Hormones / metabolism
  • Insect Hormones / physiology*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Molting / physiology*
  • Neuropeptides / physiology
  • Receptors, Neuropeptide / physiology
  • Receptors, Peptide / physiology
  • Receptors, Steroid / physiology*
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Transcription Factors / physiology


  • Ecdysteroids
  • Insect Hormones
  • Neuropeptides
  • Receptors, Neuropeptide
  • Receptors, Peptide
  • Receptors, Steroid
  • Transcription Factors
  • ecdysis-triggering hormone receptor, Drosophila
  • ecdysis-triggering hormone, Drosophila