In search for non-steroidogenic functions of the prothoracic glands of the desert locust,Schistocerca gregaria: A peptidomic and proteomic approach

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The only well established function of the prothoracic glands (PGs) of insects is the production of ecdysteroids. In gregarious locusts, like in most insect species, the PGs degenerate soon after the adult molt. In this way they resemble the thymus of mammals, a gland with an important role in the build up of the immune system in young animals. In adult solitarious locusts the PGs persist much longer, however without producing substantial amounts of ecdysteroids. In the literature the existence of a well developed rough endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi complex system has been repeatedly reported, suggesting an active role in peptide or/and protein synthesis and release. The nature of the secreted products remained unknown. Our pepdidomic analysis of an acidified methanolic extract of PGs of last instar gregarious nymphs did not yield any indication for the presence of known locust or other peptides. The peptide release assay was also negative. For our proteomic analysis, we developed an EST-based identification strategy. We successfully identified 50 protein spots on a two dimensional map. In addition to typical protein synthesis-related proteins, a number of proteins with a role in detoxification processes were found, suggesting some role of the PGs in the defense system.

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