Integration of endocrine signals that regulate insect ecdysis

Karen A. Mesce, Susan E. Fahrbach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


The extremely large number of insects and members of allied groups alive today suggests that molting - shedding of an old cuticle - may be one of the most commonly performed behaviors on our planet. Removal of an old cuticle in insects is associated with stereotyped, species-specific patterns of behavior referred to as ecdysis. It has been recognized for decades that the initiation of ecdysis is under hormonal control, but until recently many of the key peptides that regulate ecdysis were unknown. The report in 1996 of a new ecdysis-triggering hormone (ETH) sparked an era of significant advances in our understanding of the regulation of molting. This article summarizes the current model of peptide regulation of ecdysis, a model that is based on a positive feedback loop between ETH and a brain peptide, eclosion hormone. Then the relationship of these regulatory peptides to the neural circuitry that is the ultimate driver of the behavior are described. Because insects can undergo both status quo (larval-larval) and metamorphic (larval-pupal and pupal-adult) molts, differences in ecdysis behavior at different life stages are described and potential sources of these differences are identified. Most of the work described is based on studies of ecdysis in the hawkmoth, Manduca sexta, but results from studies of ecdysis in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)179-199
Number of pages21
JournalFrontiers in Neuroendocrinology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2002


  • Bursicon
  • CCAP
  • Ecdysis
  • Ecdysis-triggering hormone
  • Eclosion
  • Eclosion hormone
  • Epitracheal glands
  • Inka cell
  • Manduca sexta
  • Molting
  • VM neuron


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