Bombyxin: An Insect Brain Peptide that Belongs to the Insulin Family

Zoolog Sci. 2000 Nov 1;17(8):1035-44. doi: 10.2108/zsj.17.1035.


Bombyxin is a 5 kDa secretory brain peptide that belongs to the insulin family. Bombyxin of the silkmoth Bombyx mori can induce adult development when injected into brain-removed dormant pupae of the saturniid moth Samia cynthia ricini by activating the prothoracic glands to synthesize and release ecdysone. Bombyx bombyxin has been shown to lower the concentration of the major haemolymph sugar, trehalose, and to elevate the trehalase activity in the midgut and muscles in Bombyx, but the doses required to be effective are higher than the amounts in the feeding larvae. The exact physiological function of bombyxin in Bombyx itself is therefore still obscure, but its insulin-like structure suggests it has important roles. Bombyxin comprises a mixture of highly heterogeneous molecular forms whose amino acid sequences have 40% identity with human insulin. The Bombyx bombyxin gene encodes a precursor consisting of the signal peptide, B chain, C peptide, and A chain, in that order from the N terminus. So far, 32 bombyxin genes have been identified in Bombyx, and they are classified into 7 families, A to G, according to their sequence similarity. The bombyxin genes have no introns and cluster in unique distribution patterns. The gene arrangement in the cluster has been classified into three categories: gene pairs, gene triplets, and single genes. Nucleotide sequence analysis indicates that equal and unequal crossings-over and duplications may have generated these unique distribution patterns. The Bombyx bombyxin genes are expressed predominantly in the brain and at low levels in a number of other tissues. Genes of all 7 families are expressed in four pairs of the medial neurosecretory cells of the brain. Detailed examination indicated that only a limited number of genes in the A, B and C family members are expressed and that their expression shows a gene-arrangement-dependent pattern.