[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Chitin is an essential constituent of the insect exoskeleton, the cuticle, which is an extracellular matrix (ECM) covering the animal. It is produced by the glycosyltransferase chitin synthase at the apical plasma membrane of epidermal and tracheal cells. To fulfil its role in cuticle elasticity and stiffness it associates with proteins, thereby adopting a stereotypic arrangement of helicoidally stacked sheets, which run parallel to the surface of the animal. One approach to understand the mechanisms of chitin synthesis and organisation is to dissect these processes genetically. However, since only a few genes coding for factors involved in chitin synthesis and organisation have been identified to date using the model arthropod Drosophila melanogaster insight arising from mutant analysis is rather limited. To collect new data on the role of chitin during insect cuticle differentiation, we have analysed the effects of chitin synthesis inhibitors on Drosophila embryogenesis. For this purpose, we have chosen the benzoylphenylurea diflubenzuron and lufenuron that are widely used as insect growth regulators. Our data allow mainly two important conclusions. First, correct organisation of chitin seems to directly depend on the amount of chitin synthesised. Second, chitin synthesis and organisation are cell-autonomous processes as insecticide-treated larvae display a mosaic of cuticle defects. As benzoylphenylurea are used not only as insecticides but also as anti-diabetic drugs, the study of their impact on Drosophila cuticle differentiation may be fruitful for understanding their mode of action on a cellular pathway that is seemingly conserved between vertebrates and invertebrates.
Full-text · Article · Dec 2008 · European journal of cell biology