Cockroaches are notorious for their abilities to survive and reproduce, much to humanity's chagrin. In addition to scurrying around at night, feeding on human and pet food, and generating an offensive odor, the pests can transmit pathogens and cause allergic reactions. Now, in an article published online on November 9, 2020 in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Proteome Research, scientists have reported identifying 36 neuropeptides produced by the American cockroach (Periplaneta americana) that could someday be targeted by new, more selective and effective pesticides. The article is titled “Genomics- and Peptidomics-Based Discovery of Conserved and Novel Neuropeptides in the American Cockroach.” Neuropeptides are small proteins produced by neurons or endocrine cells that send messages to other cells. In insects, neuropeptides often act as neurotransmitters, hormones, or growth factors, influencing an organism's development, growth, metabolism, behavior, and reproduction. Therefore, disrupting these processes by targeting neuropeptides or their receptors is a potential new approach to pest control. Recently, Na Li, PhD, of the Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Insect Developmental Biology and Applied Technology, Institute of Insect Science and Technology, School of Life Sciences, South China Normal University, Guangzhou, China, and colleagues determined the genome sequence of P. americana. In the current work, they wanted to use this sequence, combined with peptide analysis, to characterize the neuropeptides of the American cockroach and study how their expression varies by tissue, developmental stage, and sex.
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