Evolution of Ecdysis and Metamorphosis in Arthropods: The Rise of Regulation of Juvenile Hormone

Cheong SP, Huang J, Bendena WG, Tobe SS, Hui JH

Integr. Comp. Biol. 2015 Nov;55(5):878-90

PMID: 26105594


Arthropods are the most successful group of animals, and are found in diverse habitats; they account for more than 80% of described animal species. A rigid exoskeleton is a common feature that is shared across the different groups of arthropods. The exoskeleton offers protection and is shed between developmental stages via a unique evolutionarily conserved process known as molting/ecdysis. Molting is triggered by steroid hormones, the ecdysteroids, and the regulation of their biosynthesis has long been proposed as a contributor to the success of arthropods during evolution. Nevertheless, how novelties arose that contributed to the diversifications of arthropods remain unclear. Juvenile hormones (JHs) are sequiterpenoids that were thought to be unique to insects, modulating the timing of metamorphosis in conjunction with the actions of ecdysteroids. Here, we revisit the old question of “the role that the sesquiterpenoids play in arthropod evolution” with a focus on the neglected non-insect arthropods. We hypothesize that the sesquiterpenoid, methyl farnesoate (MF), had already established regulatory functions in the last common ancestor of arthropods, and the difference in the regulation of biosynthesis and degradation of sesquiterpenoids, such as MF and JH, was another major driving force in the successful radiation of insects.