Partner of neuropeptide bursicon homodimer pburs mediates a novel antimicrobial peptide Ten3LP via Dif/Dorsal2 in Tribolium castaneum

Int J Biol Macromol. 2023 Aug 30:247:125840. doi: 10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2023.125840. Epub 2023 Jul 16.


Bursicon is a cystine knot family neuropeptide, composed of two subunits, bursicon (burs) and partner of burs (pburs). The subunits can form heterodimers to regulate cuticle tanning and wing maturation and homodimers to signal different biological functions in innate immunity, midgut stem cell proliferation and energy homeostasis, and reproductive physiology in the model insects Drosophila melanogaster or Tribolium castaneum. Here, we report on the role of the pburs homodimer in signaling innate immunity in T. castaneum larvae. Through transcriptome analysis we identified a set of immune-related genes that respond to pburs RNAi. Treating larvae with recombinant-pburs protein led to up-regulation of antimicrobial peptide (AMP) genes in vivo and in vitro. The upregulation of most AMP genes was dependent on the NF-κB transcription factor Relish. Most importantly, we identified a novel AMP, Tenecin 3-like peptide (Ten3LP), regulated by pburs via NF-κB transcription factor Dorsal-related immunity factor (Dif)/Dorsal2, but not Relish. We conducted Ten3LP RNAi, synthesized recombinant Ten3LP protein for microbial inhibition assays and functionally characterized Ten3LP as an AMP specific for fungi and Gram-positive bacteria. We demonstrate that expression of Ten3LP is activated by pburs via the Toll pathway. These findings identify new molecular targets for development of potential antibiotics for treating microbial infections and perhaps for RNAi based pest management technology.

Keywords: AMP genes; Bursicon; Immune response; NF-κB; Tenecin 3 like peptide; Tribolium castaneum.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antimicrobial Peptides
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Drosophila Proteins* / metabolism
  • Drosophila melanogaster / metabolism
  • Immunity, Innate / genetics
  • NF-kappa B / genetics
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Neuropeptides* / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Tribolium* / genetics
  • Tribolium* / metabolism


  • NF-kappa B
  • bursicon
  • Neuropeptides
  • Antimicrobial Peptides
  • Dif protein, Drosophila
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Drosophila Proteins