DEVELOPMENT: Acquiring a Tan

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Science  30 Jul 2004:
Vol. 305, Issue 5684, pp. 575a
DOI: 10.1126/science.305.5684.575a

Forty years ago, a neuropeptide called bursicon was shown to trigger the hardening and darkening of the new exoskeleton that is exposed when an insect molts. Now, Dewey et al. are finally able to describe the gene that encodes bursicon. Using a partial amino acid sequence of bursicon that had been purified from cockroaches, the authors searched the Drosophila melanogaster genome and located a candidate gene, for which homologs could be identified in the honeybee and mosquito genomes. The gene encodes a 15-kD protein that appears structurally similar to cystine knot proteins, a group of proteins that contain intramolecular disulfide linkages and includes molecules involved in vertebrate development, such as transforming growth factor-β and platelet-derived growth factor. Bursicon was detected in Drosophila thoracic and abdominal neurons, and mutant flies not only were defective for sclerotization but also exhibited wing expansion abnormalities, pointing to an additional yet-to be-described function of the hormone during development. — LDC

Curr. Biol. 14, 1208 (2004).

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