Molting or ecdysis is the most fundamentally important process in arthropod life history, because shedding of the exoskeleton is an absolute prerequisite for growth and metamorphosis. Although the hormonal mechanisms driving ecdysis in insects have been studied extensively, nothing is known about these processes in crustaceans. During late premolt and during ecdysis in the crab Carcinus maenas, we observed a precise and reproducible surge in hemolymph hyperglycemic hormone (CHH) levels, which was over 100-fold greater than levels seen in intermolt animals. The source of this hormone surge was not from the eyestalk neurosecretory tissues but from previously undescribed endocrine cells (paraneurons), in defined areas of the foregut and hindgut. During premolt (the only time when CHH is expressed by these tissues), the gut is the largest endocrine tissue in the crab. The CHH surge, which is a result of an unusual, almost complete discharge of the contents of the gut endocrine cell, regulates water and ion uptake during molting, thus allowing the swelling necessary for successful ecdysis and the subsequent increase in size during postmolt. This study defines an endocrine brain/gut axis in the arthropods. We propose that the ionoregulatory process controlled by CHH may be common to arthropods, in that, for insects, a similar mechanism seems to be involved in antidiuresis. It also seems likely that a cascade of very precisely coordinated release of (neuro) hormones controls ecdysis.
1999. Vol. 96, no 23, 13103-7 p.