The development and functions of oenocytes

Rami Makki, Einat Cinnamon, Alex P. Gould*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations


Oenocytes have intrigued insect physiologists since the nineteenth century. Many years of careful but mostly descriptive research on these cells highlights their diverse sizes, numbers, and anatomical distributions across Insecta. Contemporary molecular genetic studies in Drosophila melanogaster and Tribolium castaneum support the hypothesis that oenocytes are of ectodermal origin. They also suggest that, in both short and long germ-band species, oenocytes are induced from a Spalt major/Engrailed ectodermal zone by MAPK signaling. Recent glimpses into some of the physiological functions of oenocytes indicate that they involve fatty acid and hydrocarbon metabolism. Genetic studies in D. melanogaster have shown that larval oenocytes synthesize very-long-chain fatty acids required for tracheal waterproofing and that adult oenocytes produce cuticular hydrocarbons required for desiccation resistance and pheromonal communication. Exciting areas of future research include the evolution of oenocytes and their cross talk with other tissues involved in lipid metabolism such as the fat body. ©

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)405-425
Number of pages21
JournalAnnual Review of Entomology
StatePublished - Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Cuticular hydrocarbons
  • Fat body
  • Lipid metabolism
  • Oenocytes
  • Pheromones
  • Very-long-chain fatty acids


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