Eicosanoids mediate insect hemocyte migration

Deepali Merchant, Ronald L. Ertl, Stephen I. Rennard, David W. Stanley, Jon S. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Hemocyte migration toward infection and wound sites is an essential component of insect defense reactions, although the biochemical signal mechanisms responsible for mediating migration in insect cells are not well understood. Here we report on the outcomes of experiments designed to test the hypotheses that (1) insect hemocytes are able to detect and migrate toward a source of N-formyl-Met-Leu-Phe (fMLP), the major chemotactic peptide from Escherichia coli and (2) that pharmaceutical modulation of eicosanoid biosynthesis inhibits hemocyte migration. We used primary hemocyte cultures prepared from fifth-instar tobacco hornworms, Manduca sexta in Boyden chambers to assess hemocyte migration toward buffer (negative control) and toward buffer amended with fMLP (positive control). Approximately 42% of negative control hemocytes migrated toward buffer and about 64% of positive control hemocytes migrated toward fMLP. Hemocyte migration was inhibited (by >40%) by treating hornworms with pharmaceutical modulators of cycloxygenase (COX), lipoxygenase and phospholipase A2 (PLA2) before preparing primary hemocyte cultures. The influence of the COX inhibitor, indomethacin, and the glucocorticoid, dexamethasone, which leads to inhibition of PLA2, was expressed in a dose-dependent way. The influence of dexamethasone was reversed by injecting arachidonic acid (precursor to eicosanoid biosynthesis) into hornworms before preparing primary hemocyte cultures. The saturated fatty acid, palmitic acid, did not reverse the inhibitor effect. These findings support both our hypotheses, first that insect hemocytes can detect and respond to fMLP, and second, that insect hemocyte migration is mediated by eicosanoids.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)215-221
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Insect Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008


  • Boyden chamber
  • Insect immunity
  • Manduca sexta
  • Migration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Insect Science


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