Parkinson-like syndrome in cockroaches stung by a parasitoid wasp

Project Details


The parasitoid jewel wasp exploits its host the American cockroach through envenomation of its central nervous system, targeting specific areas of the insect head ganglia. The wasp venom induces a state of hypokinesia resembling Parkinson’s syndrome, whereby voluntary movement is compromised. The insect central complex (CX), which is the main target of the venom, is involved in both initiation of locomotion and grooming and is functionally similar to the mammalian basal ganglia. Moreover, the development of the basal ganglia and CX share underlying developmental genetic programs from homologous genes to patterned expression and function. The major aim of this proposal is to examine whether cockroach hypokinesia is caused by dysfunction of dopaminergic signaling CX analogous to that in mammalian Parkinson. Another aim is to identify venom components that contribute to sting-induced hypokinesia. Finally, cockroaches that recover from hypokinesia become completely immune to effects of the venom and we will investigate the basis for this remarkable immunity. This investigation should shed light on the neuronal basis of parasite-induced alterations of host behavior and might further our understanding of the neurobiology of the selection and initiation of behaviors. Our exploration of the wasp/cockroach predator and prey relationship has had an impact on Science education and the general public. It potentially opens the path on the discovery of new cellular and synaptic mechanisms controlling animal behavior with a prospect for development of innovative drugs and depending on the results, the establishment of new models for human brain disorders such as Parkinson.

Effective start/end date1/01/19 → …


  • United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF)


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.