Pyrokinins (PKs) are neuropeptides that have been found to regulate a variety of physiological activities including reproduction in various insect and crustacean species. However, the reproductive roles of PKs in the giant freshwater prawn, Macrobrachium rosenbergii, have not yet been investigated. In this study, we identified the MroPK gene from next-generation sequence resources, which encodes a MroPK precursor that shares a high degree of conservation with the C-terminal sequence of FxPRLamide in other arthropods. MroPK is expressed within most tissues, except the hepatopancreas, stomach and gill. Within developing ovarian tissue, MroPK expression was found to be significantly higher during the early stages (stages 1–2) compared with the late stages (stages 3–4), and could be localized to the oogonia, previtellogenic and early vitellogenic oocytes. A role for PK in M. rosenbergii reproduction was supported following experimental administration of MroPK to ovarian explant cultures, which led to an increase in the production of progesterone and estradiol and upregulation of expression of steroidogenesis-related genes (3β-HSD and 17β-HSD) and vitellogenin (Vg). Together, these results support a role for MroPK in regulating ovarian maturation via steroidogenesis.

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