Juvenile hormone

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Juvenile hormones (JHs) are a group of acyclic sesquiterpenoids that regulate many aspects of insect physiology. JHs regulate development, reproduction, diapause, and polyphenisms.[1][2][3]

In insects, JH (formerly called neotenin) refers to a group of hormones, which ensure growth of the larva, while preventing metamorphosis. Because of their rigid exoskeleton, insects grow in their development by successively shedding their exoskeleton (a process known as molting).

Juvenile hormones are secreted by a pair of endocrine glands behind the brain called the corpora allata. JHs are also important for the production of eggs in female insects.

JH was discovered in 1965 and the first of six molecular structures solved in 1967.[4]

Most insect species contain only juvenile hormone (JH) III.[5] To date JH 0, JH I, and JH II have been identified only in the Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths). The form JHB3 (JH III bisepoxide) appears to be the most important JH in the Diptera, or flies.[6] Certain species of crustaceans have been shown to produce and secrete methyl farnesoate, which is juvenile hormone III lacking the epoxide group.[7] Methyl farnesoate is believed to play a role similar to that of JH in crustaceans.

Being a sesquiterpenoid, JH chemical structure differs significantly from the structure of other animal hormones. Some JH analogs have been found in conifers.[8]

Control of development[edit]

The titre of JH found in the haemolymph of the developing insect controls the stage of development that the insect is in. During ecdysis the form of the old cuticle laid down before the next moult is controlled by the JH level in the insect. JH maintains a juvenile state. The level gradually decreases during the development of the insect, allowing it to proceed to successive instars with each molt.

This has been demonstrated in various studies, most prominently that by V. B. Wigglesworth in 1960s. In this study, two adult Rhodnius had their blood systems linked, ensuring that the JH titre in both would be equal. One was a third instar Rhodnius, the other was a fourth instar. When the corpora allata of the third instar insect were removed, the level of JH was equal in both insects to that in the fourth instar animal, and hence both proceeded to the fifth instar at the next moult. When the fourth instar Rhodnius had its corpora allata removed, both contained a third instar level of JH and hence one proceeded to instar four, and the other remained at this instar.

Generally, the removal of the corpora allata from juveniles will result in a diminutive adult at the next moult. Implantation of corpora allata into last larval instars will boost JH levels and hence produce a supernumary (extra) juvenile instar etc.

Juvenile hormones in honey bees[edit]

There is a complex interaction between JH, the hormone ecdysone and vitellogenin. In the development stage, as long as there is enough JH, the ecdysone promotes larva-to-larva molts. With lower amounts of JH, ecdysone promotes pupation. Complete absence of JH results in formation of the adult.[9] In adult honey bees, JH and Vitellogenin titers in general show an inverse pattern.[10][11][12][13]

JH titers in worker honey bees progressively increase through the first 15 or so days of the worker's life before the onset of foraging.[14] During the first 15 days, workers perform tasks inside the hive, such as nursing larvae, constructing comb, and cleaning cells. JH titers peak around day 15; workers this age guard, remove dead bees from the colony, and fan at the colony entrance to cool the nest. Aggressiveness of guard bees is correlated with their blood JH levels. Even though guards have high JH levels, their ovaries are relatively undeveloped.[15][16] Although, JH does not activate foraging. Rather it is involved in controlling the pace at which bees develop into foragers.[17]

Vitellogenin titers are high at the beginning of adult life and slowly decrease.

JH has been known to be involved in the queen-worker caste differentiation during the larval stage.[18] The unique negative relationship between JH and Vitellogenin may be important to the understanding of queen longevity.[19]

See also Bee learning and communication


Juvenile hormone I
Juvenile hormone II
Juvenile hormone III
  • Methyl farnesoate
    • CAS methyl (2E,6E)-3,7,11-trimethyl-2,6,10-dodecatrienoate
    • Formula: C16H26O2
  • Juvenile hormone 0 (found in Lepidoptera)
    • CAS methyl (2E,6E)-10R,11S-(oxiranyl)-3,7-diethyl-11-methyl-2,6-tridecadienoate
    • Formula: C19H32O3
  • Juvenile hormone I (found in Lepidoptera)
    • CAS methyl (2E,6E)-10R,11S-(oxiranyl)-7-ethyl-3,11-dimethyl-2,6-tridecadienoate
    • Formula: C18H30O3
  • Juvenile hormone II (found in Lepidoptera)
    • CAS methyl (2E,6E)-10R,11S-(oxiranyl)-3,7,11-trimethyl-2,6-tridecadienoate
    • Formula: C17H28O3
  • Juvenile hormone III
    • CAS methyl (2E,6E)-10R-(oxiranyl)-3,7,11-trimethyl-2,6-dodecadienoate
    • Formula: C16H26O3
  • Juvenile hormone JHB3 (found in diptera)
    • CAS methyl (2E,6E)-6S,7S,10R-(dioxiranyl)-3,7,11-trimethyl-2-dodecaenoate
    • Formula: C16H26O4

Use as an insecticide[edit]

Synthetic analogues of the juvenile hormone are used as an insecticide, preventing the larvae from developing into adult insects. JH itself is expensive to synthesize and is unstable in light. At high levels of JH, larvae can still molt, but the result will only be a bigger larva, not an adult. Thus the insect's reproductive cycle is broken. One JH analogue, methoprene, is approved by the WHO for use in drinking water cisterns to control mosquito larvae due to its exceptionally low toxicity (LD50 >35,000 mg/kg in the rat).

Juvenile hormone regulation[edit]

Juvenile hormone is produced in the corpora allata of insects. JH will disperse throughout the haemolymph and act on responsive tissues. JH is principally degraded by the enzymes Juvenile-hormone esterase (JHE) or juvenile hormone epoxide hydrolase (JHEH). JHE and JHEH both lead to suppression of JH signaling and response. Tissues responsive to JH may produce one or both of these enzymes.

JH stimulates the accessory glands of adult males, promoting gland growth and the production of accessory gland secretion. Yolk production (vitellogenesis) in female ovaries is also stimulated by JH action. JH may also regulate reproductive behaviour in both sexes.

Insect growth regulators Insect growth regulators(IGRs) such as juvenile and moulting hormones or their analogs (juvenoids and ecdysoids) when used judiciously, have been found to be useful in insect culture such as sericulture industry. In addition, ecdysoids also show a variety of other uses such as insecticidal, as biochemical tool in gene expression studies, as wound healing and anabolic agents ( body building agents with enhancing protein synthesis), as nutraceuticals and cosmetics (hair growth) IGRs occur in insects in very small amounts and are not practical source for these phytochemicals. However, with the discovery of their occurrence in significant quantities in some plants, IGRs and their analogs became easily available in substantial amounts. As a result, many new bioactivities of ecdysoids and juvenoids were discovered. Besides use in insect sericulture, they have found applications in apiculture and aquaculture (prawns). Ecdysoids show remarkable anabolic activities in human and are very much in demand as nutraceuticals (food supplements) including body building agent. Realizing the economic potential of IGRs, bioprospection for these compounds from indigenous plant sources was undertaken. Surveys indicate that a large number plants belonging to different taxa contain IGRs.

Juvenile Hormone Metabolism[edit]

Juvenile hormone's activity is destroyed by two enzymes. JH esterase cleaves the methyl ester giving JH acid. JH acid is attached by JH epoxide hydrolase, which converts the epoxide group to a diol. The order of cleavage depends on the order of insect. In the Lepidoptera, the order is as given here; ester cleavage preceding epoxide hydration. Either one terminates the activity of the hormone. JH diol acid, the product of both enzymes, is acted on by JH diol kinase to increase the solubility for excretion.


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  8. ^ Rogers,, I. H.; J. F. Manville; T. Sahota (April 1974). "Juvenile Hormone Analogs in Conifers. II. Isolation, Identification, and Biological Activity of cis-4-[1′(R)-5′-Dimethyl-3′-oxohexyl]-cyclohexane-1-carboxylic Acid and (+)-4(R)-[1′(R)-5′-Dimethyl-3′-oxohexyl]-1-cyclohexene-1-carboxylic Acid from Douglas-fir Wood". Canadian Journal of Chemistry 52 (7): 1192-1199. doi:10.1139/v74-187. Retrieved 22 March 2014. 
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