Cuticular morphogenesis during continuous growth of the final instar larva of a moth

Tissue Cell. 1981;13(4):757-72. doi: 10.1016/s0040-8166(81)80012-2.


The larvae of the tobacco hornworm, Manduca sexta, grow continuously. During the feeding period of the fifth larval instar their weight increases ten-fold (ca. 1.2-12 g) accompanied by a four-fold expansion of the surface area of the abdominal cuticle. We have found that this cuticle contains structures which facilitate its expansion. Folds in the epicuticle (papillae) flatten as the cuticle expands. The endocuticle, in contrast, does not unfold but rather is plastically deformed. This plastic deformation is assisted by vertical structures in the cuticle (cuticular columns) which are more easily deformed than the surrounding lamellate cuticle. The head capsule cuticle, which does not expand as the larva grows, lacks papillae and cuticular columns. Thus, these are specialized structures that are reserved for cuticle that must expand as the larva grows.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chitin / metabolism
  • Epithelium / ultrastructure
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Lepidoptera / growth & development*
  • Leucine / metabolism
  • Metamorphosis, Biological*
  • Morphogenesis
  • Moths / growth & development*
  • Moths / metabolism
  • Moths / ultrastructure


  • Chitin
  • Leucine
  • Glucose