• neuropeptides;
  • mass spectrometry;
  • immunohistochemistry;
  • olfactory system;
  • insect


Neuropeptides are a highly diverse group of signaling molecules that affect a broad range of biological processes in insects, including development, metabolism, behavior, and reproduction. In the central nervous system, neuropeptides are usually considered to act as neuromodulators and cotransmitters that modify the effect of “classical” transmitters at the synapse. The present study analyzes the neuropeptide repertoire of higher cerebral neuropils in the brain of the red flour beetle Tribolium castaneum. We focus on two integrative neuropils of the olfactory pathway, the antennal lobes and the mushroom bodies. Using the technique of direct peptide profiling by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight (MALDI-TOF) mass spectrometry, we demonstrate that these neuropils can be characterized by their specific neuropeptide expression profiles. Complementary immunohistological analyses of selected neuropeptides revealed neuropeptide distribution patterns within the antennal lobes and the mushroom bodies. Both approaches revealed consistent differences between the neuropils, underlining that direct peptide profiling by mass spectrometry is a fast and reliable method to identify neuropeptide content. J. Comp. Neurol. 522:337–357, 2014. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.