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Breaking through insect shells at a molecular level

With their chitinous shells, insects seem almost invulnerable – but like Achilles’ heel in Greek mythology, their impressive armor can still be attacked. Researchers at the universities of Bonn and Leipzig studied fruit flies (Drosophila) and discovered the molecular processes that are able to break through this protective casing. The enzyme chitinase 2 and growth factor idgf6 are especially important in correctly forming the insects’ shells. These findings are relevant for fighting parasites, and will be published in the professional journal Scientific Reports.

Light Microscopy Image of a Live Drosophila
This Drosophila was unable to produce enough growth factor idgf6 due to a genetic modification. As a result, defects can be seen in the respiratory organ as well as in the chitinous shell.
Credit: Photo: Dr. Matthias Behr