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Brain Behav Immun. 2012 Aug;26(6):942-50. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2012.04.007. Epub 2012 Apr 27.

The characterization of a concentration-sensitive α-adrenergic-like octopamine receptor found on insect immune cells and its possible role in mediating stress hormone effects on immune function.

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State Key Laboratory of Rice Biology & Key Laboratory of Agricultural Entomology of Ministry of Agriculture, Institute of Insect Sciences, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310058, China.


Octopamine (OA), the insect equivalent of norepinephrine, links the nervous system and immune system in insects. This study examines the underlying molecular mechanisms (i.e. second messenger systems) mediating OA effects on insect immune cells. At low concentrations (<1μM), OA stimulatedhemocyte spreading and phagocytosis in the larval Lepidopteran (caterpillar) Chilo suppressalis, whereas at high concentrations (>10 μM), OA inhibited hemocyte spreading and phagocytosis. Similarly, OA concentration had differential effects on two intracellular signaling pathways, Ca(2+) and cAMP. Low concentrations of OA increased intracellular Ca(2+), but only high concentrations of OA (>1 μM) led to an increase in both Ca(2+) and cAMP. We identified an α-adrenergic-like octopamine receptor in this species (CsOA1) and confirmed that it is expressed in hemocytes. After heterologous expression in HEK-293 cells, the CsOA1 receptor produced the same OA concentration-dependent responses on intracellular Ca(2+) and cAMP as had been observed in hemocytes. These findings support earlier work showing that OA has both stimulatory and suppressive effects on immune responses, depending on the OA concentration. Our evidence suggests that these biphasic effects are mediated by an octopamine receptor signaling through intracellular Ca(2+) and cAMP second messenger pathways. Stress hormones/neuromodulators have complex effects on immune function in animals across phyla. This complexity may be mediated, in part, by conserved connections between adrenergic-like G-coupled protein receptors and second messenger systems.

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