Identification of Ecdysis-Triggering Hormone from an Epitracheal Endocrine System

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Science  05 Jan 1996:
Vol. 271, Issue 5245, pp. 88-91
DOI: 10.1126/science.271.5245.88


Developing insects repeatedly shed their cuticle by means of a stereotyped behavior called ecdysis, thought to be initiated by the brain peptide eclosion hormone. Here an ecdysis-triggering hormone, Mas-ETH, is described from the tobacco hornworm Manduca sexta. Mas-ETH contains 26 amino acids and is produced by a segmentally distributed endocrine system of epitracheal glands (EGs). The EGs undergo a marked reduction in volume, appearance, and immunohistochemical staining during ecdysis, at which time Mas-ETH is found in the hemolymph. Injection of EGs extract or synthetic Mas-ETH into pharate larvae, pupae, or adults initiates preecdysis within 2 to 10 minutes, followed by ecdysis. Sensitivity to injected Mas-ETH appears much earlier before ecdysis and occurs with shorter latency than that reported for eclosion hormone. The isolated central nervous system responds to Mas-ETH, but not to eclosion hormone, with patterned motor bursting corresponding to in vivo preecdysis and ecdysis. Mas-ETH may be an immediate blood-borne trigger for ecdysis through a direct action on the nervous system.

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