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Ecdysis behavior allows insects to shed their old exoskeleton at the end of every molt. It is controlled by a suite of interacting hormones and neuropeptides, and has served as a useful behavior for understanding how bioactive peptides regulate CNS function. Previous findings suggest that crustacean cardioactive peptide (CCAP) activates the ecdysis motor program; the hormone bursicon is believed to then act downstream of CCAP to inflate, pigment, and harden the exoskeleton of the next stage. However, the exact roles of these signaling molecules in regulating ecdysis remain unclear. Here we use a genetic approach to investigate the functions of CCAP and bursicon in Drosophila ecdysis. We show that null mutants in CCAP express no apparent defects in ecdysis and postecdysis, producing normal adults. By contrast, a substantial fraction of flies genetically null for one of the two subunits of bursicon [encoded by the partner of bursicon gene (pburs)] show severe defects in ecdysis, with escaper adults exhibiting the expected failures in wing expansion and exoskeleton pigmentation and hardening. Furthermore, flies lacking both CCAP and bursicon show much more severe defects at ecdysis than do animals null for either neuropeptide alone. Our results show that the functions thought to be subserved by CCAP are partially effected by bursicon, and that bursicon plays an important and heretofore undescribed role in ecdysis behavior itself. These findings have important implications for understanding the regulation of this vital insect behavior and the mechanisms by which hormones and neuropeptides control the physiology and behavior of animals.


Eleanor C Lahr, Derek Dean, John Ewer. Genetic analysis of ecdysis behavior in Drosophila reveals partially overlapping functions of two unrelated neuropeptides. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 2012 May 16;32(20):6819-29

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PMID: 22593051

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