The major effort in this laboratory is to determine how hormones control developmental processes, using insect metamorphosis as a model. To this end, we have been investigating the endocrinology of Manduca sexta, the tobacco hornworm, which is raised on an artificial diet, using techniques ranging from electron microscopy to molecular biology. Present studies include the details of biosynthesis, degradation and mode of action of the three principal insect growth hormones, i.e. ecdysteroids (steroid molting hormones), neuropeptides and juvenile hormones (sesquiterpene). In addition, considerable effort over the last several years has been dedicated to insect neurobiochemistry and the action of neuropeptides by examining second messengers, polyamines and protein kinases as putative mediators of hormone action. The latter investigations have shed new light on the means by which insect hormones may exert their effects as well as on the control of neuropeptide synthesis and release.
In the last twenty years this laboratory has exploited the neuroendocrine system of Drosophila melanogaster with the aim of cloning, sequencing and examining the regulation of genes controlling neuropeptide synthesis, ecdysone synthesis (steroidogenesis), and juvenile hormone synthesis by the larval ring gland. The same paradigms are being used to characterize hormone receptors. We believe that the use of genetic probes and specific mutations will provide a better understanding of endocrine gland interrelationships and hormone action.
Dr. Gilbert is a member of several panels, a member of seven editorial boards, executive editor of Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has received the 1995 AAAS Mentor Award for Lifetime Achievement.