A Database for Insect Neuropeptide Research

Search the database for information about the various species and neuropeptides of interest

Insect Neuropeptides - Bursicon


Bursicon was first discovered and partially purified in the 1960s (Fraenkel et al., 1966; Fraenkel and Hsiao, 1962). However, the complete sequence and structure of bursicon was only determined recently in Drosophila melanogaster (Luo et al., 2005; Mendive et al., 2005). The bioactive peptide is a heterodimer composed of two cysteine knot polypeptides, bursicon (burs; CG13419) and partner of bursicon (pburs; CG15284). The GPCR for bursicon (CG8930) was also de-orphanized in these studies (Luo et al., 2005; Mendive et al., 2005). Bursicon activates GPCRs with large ecto-domain containing leucine-rich repeats (LGRs).


The expression of burs and pburs has been examined in D. melanogaster, Periplaneta americana, Teleogryllus commodus, Anopheles gambiae and Manduca sexta (Dai et al., 2008; Dewey et al., 2004; Honegger et al., 2011; Luo et al., 2005). In several species, burs and pburs co-localize with another neuropeptide, crustacean cardioactive peptide (CCAP), and these neurons undergo apoptosis in adults following ecdysis (Honegger et al., 2011; Peabody et al., 2008). In M. sexta and Bombyx mori, pburs and not burs are expressed in corpus cardiacum but the functions of the pburs homodimer is not known (Dai et al., 2008).


Bursicon was originally discovered as a cuticle tanning hormone in insects (Fraenkel et al., 1966). Recombinant heterodimeric bursicon and genetic manipulations have shown that bursicon induces both wing expansion and tanning in D. melanogaster, M. sexta, Sarcophaga bullata and Neobellieria bullata (Dai et al., 2008; Luo et al., 2005; Mendive et al., 2005; Peabody et al., 2008). Functions of bursicon other than those related to ecdysis are not known in insects. However, bursicon is found in other invertebrates such as echinoderms (Semmens et al., 2016).

SeqLogo and Cladogram

Click above image to go to SeqLogo and Cladogram page

Suggested Reviews

  • Honegger, H.-W., Dewey, E.M., Ewer, J., 2008. Bursicon, the tanning hormone of insects: recent advances following the discovery of its molecular identity. J. Comp. Physiol. A 194, 989–1005. doi:10.1007/s00359-008-0386-3
    View Review
  • Loof, A. De, 2008. Ecdysteroids, juvenile hormone and insect neuropeptides: Recent successes and remaining major challenges. Gen. Comp. Endocrinol. 155, 3–13. doi:10.1016/j.ygcen.2007.07.001
    View Review
  • Nässel, D.R., Winther, Å.M.E., 2010. Drosophila neuropeptides in regulation of physiology and behaviour. Prog. Neurobiol. 92, 42–104. doi:10.1016/j.pneurobio.2010.04.010
    View Review
  • Van Loy, T., Vandersmissen, H.P., Van Hiel, M.B., Poels, J., Verlinden, H., Badisco, L., Vassart, G., Vanden Broeck, J., 2008. Comparative genomics of leucine-rich repeats containing G protein-coupled receptors and their ligands. Gen. Comp. Endocrinol. 155, 14–21. doi:10.1016/j.ygcen.2007.06.022
    View Review


  • Dai, L., Dewey, E.M., Zitnan, D., Luo, C.-W., Honegger, H.-W., Adams, M.E., 2008. Identification, developmental expression, and functions of bursicon in the tobacco hawkmoth, Manduca sexta. J. Comp. Neurol. 506, 759–74. doi:10.1002/cne.21575
  • Dewey, E.M., McNabb, S.L., Ewer, J., Kuo, G.R., Takanishi, C.L., Truman, J.W., Honegger, H.-W., 2004. Identification of the Gene Encoding Bursicon, an Insect Neuropeptide Responsible for Cuticle Sclerotization and Wing Spreading, Current Biology. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2004.06.051
  • Fraenkel, G., Hsiao, C., 1962. Hormonal and nervous control of tanning in the fly. Science 138, 27–9.
  • Fraenkel, G., Hsiao, C., Seligman, M., 1966. Properties of bursicon: an insect protein hormone that controls cuticular tanning. Science 151, 91–3.
  • Honegger, H.-W., Estévez-Lao, T.Y., Hillyer, J.F., 2011. Bursicon-expressing neurons undergo apoptosis after adult ecdysis in the mosquito Anopheles gambiae. J. Insect Physiol. 57, 1017–22. doi:10.1016/j.jinsphys.2011.04.019
  • Luo, C.-W., Dewey, E.M., Sudo, S., Ewer, J., Hsu, S.Y., Honegger, H.-W., Hsueh, A.J.W., 2005. Bursicon, the insect cuticle-hardening hormone, is a heterodimeric cystine knot protein that activates G protein-coupled receptor LGR2. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 102, 2820–5. doi:10.1073/pnas.0409916102
  • Mendive, F.M., Van Loy, T., Claeysen, S., Poels, J., Williamson, M., Hauser, F., Grimmelikhuijzen, C.J.P., Vassart, G., Vanden Broeck, J., 2005. Drosophila molting neurohormone bursicon is a heterodimer and the natural agonist of the orphan receptor DLGR2. FEBS Lett. 579, 2171–6. doi:10.1016/j.febslet.2005.03.006
  • Peabody, N.C., Diao, F., Luan, H., Wang, H., Dewey, E.M., Honegger, H.-W., White, B.H., 2008. Bursicon functions within the Drosophila CNS to modulate wing expansion behavior, hormone secretion, and cell death. J. Neurosci. 28, 14379–91. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2842-08.2008
  • Semmens, D.C., Mirabeau, O., Moghul, I., Pancholi, M.R., Wurm, Y., Elphick, M.R., 2016. Transcriptomic identification of starfish neuropeptide precursors yields new insights into neuropeptide evolution. Open Biol.