A switch in the control of growth of the wing imaginal disks of Manduca sexta.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


Insulin and ecdysone are the key extrinsic regulators of growth for the wing imaginal disks of insects. In vitro tissue culture studies have shown that these two growth regulators act synergistically: either factor alone stimulates only limited growth, but together they stimulate disks to grow at a rate identical to that observed in situ. It is generally thought that insulin signaling links growth to nutrition, and that starvation stops growth because it inhibits insulin secretion. At the end of larval life feeding stops but the disks continue to grow, so at that time disk growth has become uncoupled from nutrition. We sought to determine at exactly what point in development this uncoupling occurs.


Growth and cell proliferation in the wing imaginal disks and hemolymph carbohydrate concentrations were measured at various stages in the last larval instar under experimental conditions of starvation, ligation, rescue, and hormone treatment.

Principal findings

Here we show that in the last larval instar of M. sexta, the uncoupling of nutrition and growth occurs as the larva passes the critical weight. Before this time, starvation causes a decline in hemolymph glucose and trehalose and a cessation of wing imaginal disks growth, which can be rescued by injections of trehalose. After the critical weight the trehalose response to starvation disappears, and the expression of insulin becomes decoupled from nutrition. After the critical weight the wing disks loose their sensitivity to repression by juvenile hormone, and factors from the abdomen, but not the brain, are required to drive continued growth.


During the last larval instar imaginal disk growth becomes decoupled from somatic growth at the time that the endocrine events of metamorphosis are initiated. These regulatory changes ensure that disk growth continues uninterrupted when the nutritive and endocrine signals undergo the drastic changes associated with metamorphosis.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Tobler, A; Nijhout, HF

Published Date

  • May 2010

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 5 / 5

Start / End Page

  • e10723 -

PubMed ID

  • 20502707

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC2873286

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1932-6203

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1932-6203

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1371/journal.pone.0010723


  • eng