Neuropeptides are important regulators of diverse processes during development. The insect neuropeptide bursicon, a 30 kDa heterodimer, controls the hardening of the new cuticle after the shedding of the old one (ecdysis) and the inflation and maturation of adult wings. Given this specific functional role, its expression should only be required transiently because adult insects no longer undergo ecdysis. Here we report the transient expression of bursicon in the mosquito, Anopheles gambiae. Quantitative RT-PCR revealed that transcription of the bursicon monomers, burs and pburs, steadily increases through the larval stages, peaks in the black pupa stage, and decreases to below detectable levels by 8 h after adult ecdysis (eclosion). Immunohistochemistry on the adult nervous system showed that bursicon is co-expressed with crustacean cardioactive peptide (CCAP) in specific neurons of the abdominal ganglia, but that labeling intensity wanes by 14 h post-eclosion. Finally, detection of disintegrating DNA by TUNEL labeling demonstrated that the bursicon expressing neurons successively undergo apoptosis following eclosion. Taken altogether, these data describe A. gambiae as another holometabolous insect in which bursicon ceases to be produced in adults, and in which the bursicon expressing neurons are removed from the ventral nerve cord.
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