Neural activation of the sex‐pheromone gland in the moth Manduca sexta: real‐time measurement of pheromone release


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21 Scopus citations


Abstract. Investigations of various species of moths have suggested that the biosynthesis of sex pheromone in the abdominal pheromone glands of females may be at least partly regulated by neuroendocrine mechanisms. Few studies, however, have explored the mechanisms underlying the release of sex pheromone. In experiments on the sphinx moth Manduca sexta (L.) (Lepidoptera: Sphingidae), we have monitored the time course of sex‐pheromone release in scotophase females with the aid of an electroantennogram bioassay based on the highly sensitive and selective sex‐pheromone receptor neurones of the male antenna. Pheromone release was evoked by orthodromic stimulation of the ventral nerve cord. Neurally stimulated release occurred with a subsecond latency and did not depend on bioactive factors in the haemolymph or on movement of the abdomen or the ovipositor. Severing the most medial pair of nerves posterior to the terminal abdominal ganglion (the terminal nerves) eliminated pheromone release, but not abdominal contractions. Release was also inhibited reversibly if the descending Ca2+‐dependent synaptic input to the terminal ganglion was blocked by exposure to elevated concentrations of Mg2+. These findings indicate that the release of sex pheromone from the pheromone gland in female M. sexta is a true neuroeffector response and that the gland appears to be controlled by neurones that project to it from the terminal abdominal ganglion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)265-270
Number of pages6
JournalPhysiological Entomology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1994


  • Electroantennogram
  • Manduca sexta
  • mate‐seeking behaviour
  • pheromone release
  • sex pheromone
  • sphinx moth
  • synaptic transmission

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Insect Science


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