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Cell Tissue Res. 2009 Feb;335(2):431-9. doi: 10.1007/s00441-008-0721-6. Epub 2008 Nov 11.

PBAN/pyrokinin peptides in the central nervous system of the fire ant, Solenopsis invicta.

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  • 1Center of Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology, United States Department of Agriculture-Agriculture Research Service, 1600 SW 23rd Drive, Gainesville, FL 32608, USA.


The pyrokinin/pheromone-biosynthesis-activating neuropeptide (PBAN) family of peptides found in insects is characterized by a 5-amino-acid C-terminal sequence, FXPRLamide. The pentapeptide is the active core required for diverse physiological functions, including the stimulation of pheromone biosynthesis in female moths, muscle contraction, induction of embryonic diapause, melanization, acceleration of puparium formation, and termination of pupal diapause. We have used immunocytochemical techniques to demonstrate the presence of pyrokinin/PBAN-like peptides in the central nervous system of the fire ant, Solenopsis invicta. Polyclonal antisera against the C-terminal end of PBAN have revealed the location of the peptide-producing cell bodies and axons in the central nervous system. Immunoreactive material is detectable in at least three groups of neurons in the subesophageal ganglion and corpora cardiaca of all adult sexual forms. The ventral nerve cord of adults consists of two segmented thoracic ganglia and four segmented abdominal ganglia. Two immunoreactive pairs of neurons are present in the thoracic ganglia, and three neuron pairs in each of the first three abdominal ganglia. The terminal abdominal ganglion has no immunoreactive neurons. PBAN immunoreactive material found in abdominal neurons appears to be projected to perisympathetic organs connected to the abdominal ganglia. These results indicate that the fire ant nervous system contains pyrokinin/PBAN-like peptides, and that these peptides are released into the hemolymph. In support of our immunocytochemical results, significant pheromonotropic activity is found in fire ant brain-subesophageal ganglion extracts from all adult fire ant forms (queens, female and male alates, and workers) when extracts are injected into decapitated females of Helicoverpa zea. This is the first demonstration of the presence of pyrokinin/PBAN-like peptides and pheromonotropic activity in an ant species.

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