Discovery of peptide probes to modulate oxytocin-type receptors of insects

Peter Keov, Zita Liutkevičiute, Roland Hellinger, Richard J. Clark, Christian W. Gruber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


The oxytocin/vasopressin signalling system is conserved across the animal kingdom. In insects, the role of oxytocin-type (inotocin) neuropeptides has only been studied in locusts, beetles and ants, but their physiology continues to be poorly understood. One reason for this knowledge deficit is the lack of available research tools to complement functional genomics efforts. Consequently, ligands to probe insect inotocin receptors are essential. In this study, we sought to identify novel agonists and antagonists of the inotocin receptor from the representative model species Tribolium castaneum and Lasius Niger. Drawing upon known ligands of the human receptors, we examined the pharmacology of the plant-derived cyclotide kalata B7 and the synthetic oxytocin analogue atosiban. Kalata B7 is a weak partial agonist of both inotocin receptors. This is the first reported direct interaction of cyclotides with an insect receptor, an observation that may explain their presumed role in herbivore defence. Furthermore, we discovered atosiban is an antagonist of the Tribolium receptor, which may provide a useful probe to investigate the functionality of inotocin signalling in beetles and related insect species. Our findings will enable further examination of insect inotocin receptor pharmacology and physiology, and may trigger studies to comprehend the interaction of plant cyclotides and insects.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10020
Number of pages7
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes

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