Insulin receptor deficiency reduces lipid synthesis and reproductive function in the insect Rhodnius prolixus

Biochim Biophys Acta Mol Cell Biol Lipids. 2021 Feb;1866(2):158851. doi: 10.1016/j.bbalip.2020.158851. Epub 2020 Nov 4.


Rhodnius prolixus, a vector of Chagas disease, is a hematophagous insect that feeds exclusively on blood. Each blood meal is digested within the first fourteen days after feeding, providing substrates for lipid synthesis for storage and egg production. These events are precisely regulated and emerging evidence points to a key function of insulin-like peptides (ILPs) in this control. Here we investigated the role of insulin receptor in the regulation of nutrient metabolism in fed adult females. The expression of insulin receptor (RhoprIR) gene was determined in adult organs, and it was highest in ovaries and previtellogenic follicles. We generated insects with RNAi-mediated knockdown of RhoprIR to address the physiological role of this receptor. RhoprIR deficiency improved longevity and reduced triacylglycerol storage in the fat body, whereas blood digestion remained unchanged for seven days after blood meal. The lower lipid content was attributable to decreased de novo lipogenesis as well as reduced incorporation of hemolymph-derived fatty acids into newly synthesized lipids within this organ. Consistent with that, fat bodies from RhoprIR-deficient insects exhibited decreased gene expression levels of lipophorin receptor (RhoprLpR), glycerol-3-phosphate acyltransferase 1 and 4 (RhoprGpat1 and RhoprGpat4), and carnitine palmitoyltransferase 1 (RhoprCpt1). Although hemolymph lipid profile was not affected by RhoprIR disruption, the concentration of circulating vitellogenin was increased. In line with these changes, RhoprIR-deficient females exhibited smaller ovaries and a marked reduction in oviposition. Taken together, these findings support a key role of insulin receptor in nutrient homeostasis, lipid synthesis and egg production following a blood meal.

Keywords: Insulin receptor; Insulin-like peptide; Lipid synthesis; Oogenesis; Rhodnius prolixus; Triacylglycerol.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood
  • Chagas Disease / parasitology
  • Chagas Disease / transmission
  • Fat Body / metabolism
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Hemolymph / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Insect Proteins / deficiency*
  • Insect Proteins / genetics
  • Insect Vectors / parasitology
  • Insect Vectors / physiology*
  • Lipid Droplets / metabolism
  • Lipogenesis / physiology
  • Models, Animal
  • Oogenesis / genetics*
  • Ovary / metabolism
  • Rabbits
  • Receptor, Insulin / deficiency*
  • Receptor, Insulin / genetics
  • Rhodnius / parasitology
  • Rhodnius / physiology*
  • Triglycerides / analysis
  • Triglycerides / metabolism


  • Insect Proteins
  • Triglycerides
  • Receptor, Insulin