Neonicotinoid Insecticides Alter the Transcriptome of Soybean and Decrease Plant Resistance Academic Article uri icon


  • Neonicotinoids are widely used systemic insecticides that have been associated with spider mite outbreaks on diverse plants. These insecticides have complex effects on plant physiology, which have been speculated to drive enhanced performance of spider mites. We used RNA-Seq to explore how neonicotinoids modify gene expression in soybean thereby lowering plant resistance. We exposed soybean (Glycine max L.) to two neonicotinoid insecticides, thiamethoxam applied to seeds and imidacloprid applied as a soil drench, and we exposed a subset of these plants to spider mites (Tetranychus cinnabarinus). Applications of both insecticides downregulated genes involved in plant-pathogen interactions, phytohormone pathways, phenylpropanoid pathway, and cell wall biosynthesis. These effects were especially pronounced in plants exposed to thiamethoxam. Introduction of spider mites restored induction of genes in these pathways in plants treated with imidacloprid, while expression of genes involved in phenylpropanoid synthesis, in particular, remained downregulated in thiamethoxam-treated plants. Our outcomes indicate that both insecticides suppress genes in pathways relevant to plantâğarthropod interactions, and suppression of genes involved in cell wall synthesis may explain lower plant resistance to spider mites, cell-content feeders. These effects appear to be particularly significant when plants are exposed to neonicotinoids applied to soybean seeds.

altmetric score

  • 2.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Wulff, J. A., Kiani, M., Regan, K., Eubanks, M. D., & Szczepaniec, A.

citation count

  • 5

publication date

  • February 2019