Immune response in insects: the role of phenoloxidase in defense reactions in relation to melanization and sclerotization

Arch Insect Biochem Physiol. 1996;31(2):119-33. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1520-6327(1996)31:2<119::AID-ARCH1>3.0.CO;2-V.


It is well known that activated prophenoloxidase (proPO) plays an important role in cuticular melanization and sclerotization. In addition, studies dealing with immune response of insects suggest that phenoloxidase (PO) is also critical in the defense reactions of insects against invaders. proPO is activated by elicitors derived from microbial cell wall components such as peptidoglycan, beta-1,3-glucan, and lipopolysaccharide (LPS). According to our recent studies we proposed a model clarifying the role of PO in both cellular and humoral immune responses. LPS triggers Ceratitis capitata hemocytes via induced protein tyrosine phosphorylation to release biologically active molecules, including p47 and proPO-activators. Furthermore, hemocytes in response to LPS facilitate clearance of LPS from the hemocoel of medfly. The effector molecules involved in the LPS clearance are hemocyte surface-associated p47 (mp47), soluble p47 (sp47), activated proPO, and tyrosine. A similar LPS clearance system in the integument of medfly in vitro was also demonstrated. According to our data, the proposed mechanism for LPS clearance from hemocoel and from integument is the crosslinking of LPS to p47 or certain integumental proteins via the intermediacy of reactive tyrosine derivatives generated by PO activity, as is the case for cuticular protein-chitin crosslinks during sclerotization. We also demonstrated that metabolites of the eumelanin biosynthesis and not melanin itself or N-acetyldopamine (NADA), the key precursor of sclerotizing agent, were necessary for the immune responses by hemocytes and integument.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diptera / immunology
  • Hemocytes / immunology
  • Hemocytes / metabolism
  • Insecta / physiology*
  • Lipopolysaccharides / pharmacology
  • Melanins / physiology*
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase / metabolism*
  • Peptidoglycan / pharmacology


  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Melanins
  • Peptidoglycan
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase