AKH Signaling in D. melanogaster Alters Larval Development in a Nutrient-Dependent Manner That Influences Adult Metabolism

Bryon N. Hughson, Mary Jane Shimell, Michael B. O’Connor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Metabolism, growth, and development are intrinsically linked, and their coordination is dependent upon inter-organ communication mediated by anabolic, catabolic, and steroid hormones. In Drosophila melanogaster, the corpora cardiaca (CC) influences metabolic homeostasis through adipokinetic hormone (AKH) signaling. AKH has glucagon-like properties and is evolutionarily conserved in mammals as the gonadotropin-releasing hormone, but its role in insect development is unknown. Here we report that AKH signaling alters larval development in a nutrient stress-dependent manner. This activity is regulated by the locus dg2, which encodes a cGMP-dependent protein kinase (PKG). CC-specific downregulation of dg2 expression delayed the developmental transition from larval to pupal life, and altered adult metabolism and behavior. These developmental effects were AKH-dependent, and were observed only in flies that experienced low nutrient stress during larval development. Calcium-mediated vesicle exocytosis regulates ecdysteroid secretion from the prothoracic gland (PG), and we found that AKH signaling increased cytosolic free calcium levels in the PG. We identified a novel pathway through which PKG acts in the CC to communicate metabolic information to the PG via AKH signaling. AKH signaling provides a means whereby larval nutrient stress can alter developmental trajectories into adulthood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number619219
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
StatePublished - Feb 23 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2021 Hughson, Shimell and O’Connor.


  • AKH
  • PKG
  • adipokinetic hormone
  • corpora cardiaca
  • development
  • dg2
  • metabolism
  • prothoracic gland

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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