Involvement of the opioid system in the hypokinetic state induced in cockroaches by a parasitoid wasp

Tali Gavra, Frederic Libersat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The parasitoid wasp Ampulex compressa stings and injects venom into the cockroach brain to induce a long-lasting hypokinetic state. This state is characterized by decreased responsiveness to aversive stimuli, suggesting the manipulation of a neuromodulatory system in the cockroach's central nervous system. A likely candidate is the opioid system, which is known to affect responsiveness to stimuli in insects. To explore this possibility, we injected cockroaches with different opioid receptor agonists or antagonists before they were stung by a wasp and tested the escape behavior of these cockroaches to electric foot shocks. Antagonists significantly decreased the startle threshold in stung individuals, whereas agonists led to an increased startle threshold in controls. Yet, neither agonists nor antagonists had any effect on grooming. To further characterize the interaction between the venom and opioid receptors, we used an antenna-heart preparation. In un-stung individuals external application of crude venom completely inhibits antenna-heart contractions. In stung individuals the antenna-heart showed no contractions. Although acetylcholine restored contractions, the opioid receptor antagonist naloxone was unable to antagonize the venom inhibition. These results suggest that the venom of A. compressa might contribute to the manipulation of cockroach behavior by affecting the opioid system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-291
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology A: Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2011


  • Ampulex compressa
  • Antenna-heart
  • Opioids
  • Periplaneta americana
  • Venom


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