Neural regulation of sex-pheromone glands in Lepidoptera

Thomas A. Christensen, John G. Hildebrand

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Substantial progress has been made toward understanding the neuroendocrine regulation of sex-pheromone glands in Lepidoptera, but several recent studies have revealed that direct contact of the pheromone gland with blood-borne factors is not necessary to induce pheromone biosynthesis and release in some species. The nervous system provides an alternate route of activation. Evidence from several species indicates that the pheromone gland is innervated and regulated by neural activity. Electrical stimulation of efferent axons arising from the terminal abdominal ganglion results in a significant increase in pheromone production, and neural stimulation furthermore evokes the rapid release of pheromone into the surrounding air. In some heliothine moths, the biogenic monoamine octopamine stimulates pheromone production, and octopamine has also been isolated from pheromone gland tissue. Moreover, the critical period for maximal octopamine action mirrors the time when peak levels of octopamine are present in the gland. These findings suggest that octopamine is involved in the regulation of pheromone biosynthesis and/or release, but its actions depend on additional factors associated with age and photoperiod. The combined evidence using anatomical, electrophysiological, and biochemical methods indicates that the pheromone gland is innervated and regulated by neurons that arise in the terminal abdominal ganglion. Indirect evidence suggests that at least some of this innervation is octopaminergic. In these respects, the pheromone gland in Lepidoptera exhibits characteristics of other neuroeffector systems in insects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)97-103
Number of pages7
JournalInvertebrate Neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 1995


  • innervation
  • neural regulation
  • octopamine
  • pheromone biosynthesis
  • pheromone release
  • terminal abdominal ganglion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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