A coordinated expression of biosynthetic enzymes controls the flux of juvenile hormone precursors in the corpora allata of mosquitoes

Insect Biochem Mol Biol. 2011 Sep;41(9):660-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ibmb.2011.04.008. Epub 2011 May 3.


Juvenile hormone (JH) is a key regulator of metamorphosis and ovarian development in mosquitoes. Adult female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes show developmental and dynamically regulated changes of JH synthesis. Newly emerged females have corpora allata (CA) with low biosynthetic activity, but they produce high amounts of JH a day later; blood feeding results in a striking decrease in JH synthesis, but the CA returns to a high level of JH synthesis three days later. To understand the molecular bases of these dynamic changes we combined transcriptional studies of 11 of the 13 enzymes of the JH pathway with a functional analysis of JH synthesis. We detected up to a 1000-fold difference in the levels of mRNA in the CA among the JH biosynthetic enzymes studied. There was a coordinated expression of the 11 JH biosynthetic enzymes in female pupae and adult mosquito. Increases or decreases in transcript levels for all the enzymes resulted in increases or decreases of JH synthesis; suggesting that transcript changes are at least partially responsible for the dynamic changes of JH biosynthesis observed. JH synthesis by the CA was progressively increased in vitro by addition of exogenous precursors such as geranyl-diphosphate, farnesyl-diphosphate, farnesol, farnesal and farnesoic acid. These results suggest that the supply of these precursors and not the activity of the last 6 pathway enzymes is rate limiting in these glands. Nutrient reserves play a key role in the regulation of JH synthesis. Nutritionally deficient females had reduced transcript levels for the genes encoding JH biosynthetic enzymes and reduced JH synthesis. Our studies suggest that JH synthesis is controlled by the rate of flux of isoprenoids, which is the outcome of a complex interplay of changes in precursor pools, enzyme levels and external regulators such as nutrients and brain factors. Enzyme levels might need to surpass a minimum threshold to achieve a net flux of precursors through the biosynthetic pathway. In glands with low synthetic activity, the flux of isoprenoids might be limited by the activity of enzymes with low levels of expression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aedes / enzymology
  • Aedes / growth & development
  • Aedes / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Biosynthetic Pathways
  • Corpora Allata / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Insect Proteins / genetics
  • Insect Proteins / metabolism*
  • Juvenile Hormones / biosynthesis*
  • Pupa / enzymology
  • Pupa / growth & development
  • Pupa / metabolism


  • Insect Proteins
  • Juvenile Hormones