The Insect Prothoracic Gland as a Model for Steroid Hormone Biosynthesis and Regulation

Qiuxiang Ou, Jie Zeng, Naoki Yamanaka, Christina Brakken-Thal, Michael B. O'Connor, Kirst King-Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Steroid hormones are ancient signaling molecules found in vertebrates and insects alike. Both taxa show intriguing parallels with respect to how steroids function and how their synthesis is regulated. As such, insects are excellent models for studying universal aspects of steroid physiology. Here, we present a comprehensive genomic and genetic analysis of the principal steroid hormone-producing organs in two popular insect models, Drosophila and Bombyx. We identified 173 genes with previously unknown specific expression in steroid-producing cells, 15 of which had critical roles in development. The insect neuropeptide PTTH and its vertebrate counterpart ACTH both regulate steroid production, but molecular targets of these pathways remain poorly characterized. Identification of PTTH-dependent gene sets identified the nuclear receptor HR4 as a highly conserved target in both Drosophila and Bombyx. We consider this study to be a critical step toward understanding how steroid hormone production and release are regulated in all animal models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)247-262
Number of pages16
JournalCell reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 28 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 The Author(s)


  • Bombyx
  • Drosophila
  • Halloween genes
  • Nocturnin
  • PTTH
  • Ras
  • Torso
  • corpus allatum
  • corpus cardiacum
  • cytochrome P450
  • ecdysone
  • nuclear receptor
  • ring gland


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