Oenocytes in insects


  • G F Martins Departamento de Biologia Geral, Universidade Federal de Viçosa (DBG/UFV). Campus Universitário, Viçosa, Minas Gerais, Brazil. CEP 36570-000
  • J M Ramalho-Ortigão Department of Entomology, Kansas State University (KSU), Manhattan, Kansas, USA, 66506


insects, oenocytes, oenocyte ultrastructure, oenocyte metabolism


Oenocytes are insect cells responsible for lipid processing and detoxification. Of ectodermic origin, they are found in close association with the insect epidermis, or fat body cells, or both depending on the insect species and developmental stage. They are easily distinguishable either by staining or by their ability to form cell clusters lined by a basal lamina, which makes it possible to isolate them from other cells. The most noticeable characteristic of the oenocytes ultrastructure is the presence of a welldeveloped smooth endoplasmic reticulum that can fill almost entire cell cytoplasm that for a long time was suggestive of lipid processing capacity. This capacity was confirmed lately through the usage of genetic, molecular and biochemistry approaches and other functions are also addressed to these cells, such as cuticular hydrocarbons and pheromones synthesis and detoxification. Additionally, oenocytes are considered analogous to mammalian hepatocytes based on their gene expression profiles and cell functions. In spite of the current knowledge about oenocytes, much about their protein expression profile remains unknown. In this review we provide a general overview of the state of the art related to oenocytes studies and certain morphological and biochemical aspects of such cells crucial for insect survival.