The exoskeletons of pancrustaceans, as typified by decapod crustaceans and insects, demonstrate a high degree of similarity with respect to histology, ultrastructure, function, and composition. The cuticular envelope in insects and the outer epicuticle in crustaceans both serve as the primary barrier to permeability of the exoskeleton, preventing loss of water and ions to the external medium. Prior to and following ecdysis, there is a sequence of expression and synthesis of different proteins by the cuticular epithelium for incorporation into the pre-exuvial and post-exuvial procuticle of insects and the exocuticle and endocuticle of crustaceans. Both exhibit regional differences in cuticular composition, e.g., the articular (intersegmental) membranes of insects and the arthrodial (joint) membranes of crustaceans. The primary difference between these cuticles is the ability to mineralize. Crustaceans' cuticles express a unique suite of proteins that provide for the nucleation and deposition of calcium carbonate. Orthologs of genes discussed in the present review were mined from a recently completed cuticular transcriptome of the crayfish, Cherax quadricarinatus, providing new insights into the nature of these proteins.
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