How Did Arthropod Sesquiterpenoids and Ecdysteroids Arise? Comparison of Hormonal Pathway Genes in Noninsect Arthropod Genomes

Qu Z, Kenny NJ, Lam HM, Chan TF, Chu KH, Bendena WG, Tobe SS, Hui JH

Genome Biol Evol 2015 Jul;7(7):1951-9

PMID: 26112967


The phylum Arthropoda contains the largest number of described living animal species, with insects and crustaceans dominating the terrestrial and aquatic environments, respectively. Their successful radiations have long been linked to their rigid exoskeleton in conjunction with their specialized endocrine systems. In order to understand how hormones can contribute to the evolution of these animals, here, we have categorized the sesquiterpenoid and ecdysteroid pathway genes in the noninsect arthropod genomes, which are known to play important roles in the regulation of molting and metamorphosis in insects. In our analyses, the majority of gene homologs involved in the biosynthetic, degradative, and signaling pathways of sesquiterpenoids and ecdysteroids can be identified, implying these two hormonal systems were present in the last common ancestor of arthropods. Moreover, we found that the “Broad-Complex” was specifically gained in the Pancrustacea, and the innovation of juvenile hormone (JH) in the insect linage correlates with the gain of the JH epoxidase (CYP15A1/C1) and the key residue changes in the binding domain of JH receptor (“Methoprene-tolerant”). Furthermore, the gain of “Phantom” differentiates chelicerates from the other arthropods in using ponasterone A rather than 20-hydroxyecdysone as molting hormone. This study establishes a comprehensive framework for interpreting the evolution of these vital hormonal pathways in these most successful animals, the arthropods, for the first time.