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Park, J.H., Schroeder, A.J., Helfrich-Forster, C., Jackson, F.R., Ewer, J. (2003). Targeted ablation of CCAP neuropeptide-containing neurons of Drosophila causes specific defects in execution and circadian timing of ecdysis behavior.  Development 130(12): 2645--2656.
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Insect growth and metamorphosis is punctuated by molts, during which a new cuticle is produced. Every molt culminates in ecdysis, the shedding of the remains of the old cuticle. Both the timing of ecdysis relative to the molt and the actual execution of this vital insect behavior are under peptidergic neuronal control. Based on studies in the moth, Manduca sexta, it has been postulated that the neuropeptide Crustacean cardioactive peptide (CCAP) plays a key role in the initiation of the ecdysis motor program. We have used Drosophila bearing targeted ablations of CCAP neurons (CCAP KO animals) to investigate the role of CCAP in the execution and circadian regulation of ecdysis. CCAP KO animals showed specific defects at ecdysis, yet the severity and nature of the defects varied at different developmental stages. The majority of CCAP KO animals died at the pupal stage from the failure of pupal ecdysis, whereas larval ecdysis and adult eclosion behaviors showed only subtle defects. Interestingly, the most severe failure seen at eclosion appeared to be in a function required for abdominal inflation, which could be cardioactive in nature. Although CCAP KO populations exhibited circadian eclosion rhythms, the daily distribution of eclosion events (i.e., gating) was abnormal. Effects on the execution of ecdysis and its circadian regulation indicate that CCAP is a key regulator of the behavior. Nevertheless, an unexpected finding of this work is that the primary functions of CCAP as well as its importance in the control of ecdysis behaviors may change during the postembryonic development of Drosophila.

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