The cuticle is a biological composite material consisting principally of N-acetylglucosamine polymer embedded in cuticular proteins (CPs). CPs have been studied and characterized by mass spectrometry in several cuticular structures and in many arthropods. Such analyses were carried out by protein extraction using SDS followed by electrophoresis, allowing detection and identification of numerous CPs. To build a repertoire of cuticular structures from Bombyx mori, Apis mellifera and Anopheles gambiae the use of SDS and electrophoresis was avoided. Using the combination of hexafluoroisopropanol and of a surfactant compatible with MS, a high number of CPs was identified in An. gambiae wings, legs and antennae, and in the thoracic integument cuticle of Ap. mellifera pupae. The exoskeleton analysis of B. mori larvae allowed to identify 85 CPs from a single larva. Finally, the novel proteomics approach was tested on cuticles left behind after the molt from the fourth instar of Acyrthosiphon pisum. Analysis of these cast cuticles allowed to identify 100 Ac. pisum CPs as authentic cuticle constituents. These correspond to 68% of the total putative CPs previously annotated for this pea aphid. While this paper analyzes only the recovered cuticular proteins, peptides from many other proteins were also detected.
Keywords: chitin; cuticle; insects; mass spectrometry; proteomics.
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