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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Can the insect nervous system synthesize ecdysteroids?

The term "neurosteroid" refers to both classic and unique steroid molecules that are synthesized from cholesterol ( C) by the central and peripheral nervous systems of higher vertebrates. Therein, they accumulate and modulate nervous activity by a variety of mechanisms other than the classic steroid receptor-mediated modulation of genomic activity, although such may also be involved. Since the insect nervous system expresses ecdysteroid receptors and responds both directly and developmentally to ecdysteroids, the possibility of ecdysteroidogenesis in the pupal and adult central and peripheral nervous system of Manduca sexta and the nervous system of Drosophila melanogaster larvae was investigated. The endogenous concentrations of the critical, dietary-derived delta 5,7-sterols ergosterol and 7-dehydrocholesterol (7dC) remained 10 to 20-fold higher in the Manduca pupal and adult nervous tissues than was found in the larval hemolymph at the cessation of feeding. In addition, it was determined that the Manduca pupal nervous system, but not that of the adult, could synthesize 3H/14C-7dC or 3H-7-dehydro-25-hydroxycholesterol (3H-7d25C) from 3H/14C-cholesterol (3H/14C-C) or the polar sterol substrate 3H-25-hydroxycholesterol (3H-25C), respectively. However, none of the nervous system samples from the two species and the several stages analyzed, a small window of neural development in these insects, were capable of incorporating any of the above tracer precursor sterols into a radiolabelled ecdysteroid, i.e. less than 0.0005%. Thus, the absence of neurosteroidogenesis by the insect nervous system stands in sharp contrast to previously described nervous system steroid hormone biosynthesis by the mammalian nervous system.[1]


  1. Can the insect nervous system synthesize ecdysteroids? Warren, J.T., Dai, J.D., Gilbert, L.I. Insect Biochem. Mol. Biol. (1999) [Pubmed]
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