Tracing the evolutionary origins of insect renal function

Nat Commun. 2015 Apr 21:6:6800. doi: 10.1038/ncomms7800.


Knowledge on neuropeptide receptor systems is integral to understanding animal physiology. Yet, obtaining general insight into neuropeptide signalling in a clade as biodiverse as the insects is problematic. Here we apply fluorescent analogues of three key insect neuropeptides to map renal tissue architecture across systematically chosen representatives of the major insect Orders, to provide an unprecedented overview of insect renal function and control. In endopterygote insects, such as Drosophila, two distinct transporting cell types receive separate neuropeptide signals, whereas in the ancestral exopterygotes, a single, general cell type mediates all signals. Intriguingly, the largest insect Order Coleoptera (beetles) has evolved a unique approach, in which only a small fraction of cells are targets for neuropeptide action. In addition to demonstrating a universal utility of this technology, our results reveal not only a generality of signalling by the evolutionarily ancient neuropeptide families but also a clear functional separation of the types of cells that mediate the signal.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Coleoptera / genetics*
  • Coleoptera / physiology*
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology
  • Insect Proteins / genetics
  • Insect Proteins / metabolism
  • Insecta / genetics*
  • Insecta / physiology*
  • Kidney / cytology
  • Kidney / physiology*
  • Kinins / genetics
  • Kinins / metabolism
  • Malpighian Tubules / physiology
  • Phylogeny
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Species Specificity


  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Insect Proteins
  • Kinins