Ecdysteroids, juvenile hormone and insect neuropeptides: Recent successes and remaining major challenges

Gen Comp Endocrinol. 2008 Jan 1;155(1):3-13. doi: 10.1016/j.ygcen.2007.07.001. Epub 2007 Jul 14.


In the recent decade, tremendous progress has been realized in insect endocrinology as the result of the application of a variety of advanced methods in neuropeptidome- and receptor research. Hormones of which the existence had been shown by bioassays four decades ago, e.g. bursicon (a member of the glycoprotein hormone family) and pupariation factor (Neb-pyrokinin 2, a myotropin), could be identified, along with their respective receptors. In control of diurnal rhythms, clock genes got company from the neuropeptide Pigment Dispersing Factor (PDF), of which the receptor could also be identified. The discovery of Inka cells and their function in metamorphosis was a true hallmark. Analysis of the genomes of Caenorhabditis elegans, Drosophila melanogaster and Apis mellifera yielded about 75, 100 and 200 genes coding for putative signaling peptides, respectively, corresponding to approximately 57, 100 and 100 peptides of which the expression could already be proven by means of mass spectrometry. The comparative approach invertebrates-vertebrates recently yielded indications for the existence of counterparts in insects for prolactin, atrial natriuretic hormone and Growth Hormone Releasing Hormone (GRH). Substantial progress has been realized in identifying the Halloween genes, a membrane receptor(s) for ecdysteroids, a nuclear receptor for methylfarnesoate, and dozens of GPCRs for insect neuropeptides. The major remaining challenges concern the making match numerous orphan GPCRs with orphan peptidic ligands, and elucidating their functions. Furthermore, the endocrine control of growth, feeding-digestion, and of sexual differentiation, in particular of males, is still poorly understood. The finding that the prothoracic glands produce an autocrine factor with growth factor-like properties and secrete proteins necessitates a reevaluation of their role in development.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Size / genetics
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Ecdysteroids / physiology*
  • Insect Hormones / physiology*
  • Insecta* / growth & development
  • Instinct
  • Invertebrate Hormones / metabolism
  • Invertebrate Hormones / physiology
  • Juvenile Hormones / biosynthesis
  • Juvenile Hormones / physiology*
  • Molting / physiology
  • Neuropeptides / physiology*
  • Protein Precursors / metabolism
  • Protein Precursors / physiology
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism


  • Ecdysteroids
  • Insect Hormones
  • Invertebrate Hormones
  • Juvenile Hormones
  • Neuropeptides
  • Protein Precursors
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • ecdysis-triggering hormone, Drosophila
  • pigment dispersing hormone precursor
  • prothoracicotropic hormone