On gonads and gadflies: the estrus angle

    1. Stephen G Hillier
    1. Medical Research Council Centre for Reproductive Health, University of Edinburgh, Queen’s Medical Research Institute, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
    1. Correspondence should be addressed to S G Hillier; Email: steve.hillier{at}ed.ac.uk


    The first sex steroid to be crystallized was the vertebrate ovarian hormone, estrone – a less potent metabolite of 17β-estradiol, which in mammals stimulates the female urge to mate (estrus). The gadfly (Greek oistros) lent its name to the process of estrus, as an insect that bites and torments in classical Greek mythology. With the purification and crystallization of a moult-inducing steroid (ecdysone) from insects, an interesting parallel emerged between mating and moulting in lower mammals and arthropods. Ecdysterone (potent ecdysone metabolite) has anabolic effects in mammalian muscle cells that can be blocked by selective estrogen receptor antagonists. Insects utilize ecdysteroids in similar ways that vertebrates use estrogens, including stimulation of oocyte growth and maturation. Ecdysteroids also modify precopulatory insect mating behaviour, further reinforcing the gonad-gadfly/mate-moult analogy.

    • Received 31 March 2017
    • Accepted 6 April 2017
    • Made available online as an Accepted Preprint 6 April 2017
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