The exoskeleton serves also as a water-impermeable barrier, protecting the insect against desiccation. The main part of the barrier is located in the wax-covered epicuticle.
An important function for the exoskeleton is to act as a barrier preventing microorganisms from access to interior of the animal. Soft, pliant cuticles are more easily damaged and penetrated by microorganisms than the sclerotized regions, but they contain a defense system of inactive precursors of phenoloxidases. When the cuticle is damaged, these precursors are activated by limited proteolysis to active phenoloxidases, which will oxidize tyrosine and other phenols to highly reactive quinones. The reaction products are toxic for microorganisms, and they will close minor wounds in the cuticular surface.
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