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Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2012 Nov 30;3:151. doi: 10.3389/fendo.2012.00151. eCollection 2012.

More than two decades of research on insect neuropeptide GPCRs: an overview.

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Animal Physiology and Neurobiology, Department of Biology, Zoological Institute KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.


This review focuses on the state of the art on neuropeptide receptors in insects. Most of these receptors are G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) and are involved in the regulation of virtually all physiological processes during an insect's life. More than 20 years ago a milestone in invertebrate endocrinology was achieved with the characterization of the first insect neuropeptide receptor, i.e., the Drosophila tachykinin-like receptor. However, it took until the release of the Drosophila genome in 2000 that research on neuropeptide receptors boosted. In the last decade a plethora of genomic information of other insect species also became available, leading to a better insight in the functions and evolution of the neuropeptide signaling systems and their intracellular pathways. It became clear that some of these systems are conserved among all insect species, indicating that they fulfill crucial roles in their physiological processes. Meanwhile, other signaling systems seem to be lost in several insect orders or species, suggesting that their actions were superfluous in those insects, or that other neuropeptides have taken over their functions. It is striking that the deorphanization of neuropeptide GPCRs gets much attention, but the subsequent unraveling of the intracellular pathways they elicit, or their physiological functions are often hardly examined. Especially in insects besides Drosophila this information is scarce if not absent. And although great progress made in characterizing neuropeptide signaling systems, even in Drosophila several predicted neuropeptide receptors remain orphan, awaiting for their endogenous ligand to be determined. The present review gives a précis of the insect neuropeptide receptor research of the last two decades. But it has to be emphasized that the work done so far is only the tip of the iceberg and our comprehensive understanding of these important signaling systems will still increase substantially in the coming years.


G protein-coupled receptors; insects; neurobiology; neuropeptides; signal transduction

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