Parasitoid wasp venom manipulates host innate behavior via subtype-specific dopamine receptor activation

Stefania Nordio, Maayan Kaiser, Michael E Adams, Frederic Libersat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The subjugation strategy employed by the jewel wasp is unique in that it manipulates the behavior of its host, the American cockroach, rather than inducing outright paralysis. Upon envenomation directly into the central complex (CX), a command center in the brain for motor behavior, the stung cockroach initially engages in intense grooming behavior, then falls into a lethargic sleep-like state referred to as hypokinesia. Behavioral changes evoked by the sting are due at least in part to the presence of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the venom. In insects, dopamine receptors are classified as two families, the D1-like and the D2-like receptors. However, specific roles played by dopamine receptor subtypes in venom-induced behavioral manipulation by the jewel wasp remain largely unknown. In the present study, we used a pharmacological approach to investigate roles of D1-like and D2-like receptors in behaviors exhibited by stung cockroaches, focusing on grooming. Specifically, we assessed behavioral outcomes of focal CX injections of dopamine receptor agonists and antagonists. Both specific and non-specific compounds were used. Our results strongly implicate D1-like dopamine receptors in venom-induced grooming. Regarding induction of hypokinesia, our findings demonstrate that dopamine signaling is necessary for induction of long-lasting hypokinesia caused by brain envenomation.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numberjeb243674
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 15 Mar 2022


  • Central complex
  • D1-like receptor
  • Dopamine
  • Grooming
  • Venom


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