Transcriptional regulation in southern corn rootworm larvae challenged by soyacystatin N. Academic Article uri icon


  • When fed on a diet containing a soybean cysteine protease inhibitor soyacystatin N (scN), southern corn rootworm larvae exhibited increased mortality and reduced growth rate. scN impacted mortality in a dose-dependent manner, and its effect on insect growth was more severe at early developmental stages. Insects that survived from continuous exposure to the inhibitor at doses ranging from 0.1% to 0.5% had less reduction in body weight during later developmental stages. This insensitivity as insects developed was not observed in the insect group fed on diet containing 0.05% scN, the lowest dose tested. Thus, individuals that survived the higher dose treatments may have had higher fitness under dietary inhibitory challenge. Subtractive hybridization and cDNA microarray analyses identified 29 transcript species responsive to scN. Southern corn rootworm larvae over-expressed cysteine and aspartic proteases to compensate for inhibition of digestion. Induction of a peritrophin gene suggested that strengthening the peritrophic membrane plays a role in coping with protease inhibitors. scN down-regulated genes encoding proteins involved in insect metabolism and development, reflecting the insect's ability to reallocate resources to prioritize its defense response. Further, protease and the peritrophin genes were also developmentally regulated, which may explain the lower toxicity in older larvae than in neonates when first encountering dietary scN. Multiple regulatory mechanisms of counter defense-related genes may allow insects to evade the effect of plant defense proteins, and impose an obstacle to biotechnology-based insect control.

published proceedings

  • Insect Biochem Mol Biol

author list (cited authors)

  • Liu, Y., Salzman, R. A., Pankiw, T., & Zhu-Salzman, K.

citation count

  • 35

complete list of authors

  • Liu, Yilin||Salzman, Ron A||Pankiw, Tanya||Zhu-Salzman, Keyan

publication date

  • January 2004