Insect Sterol Nutrition: Physiological Mechanisms, Ecology, and Applications.
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Insects, like all eukaryotes, require sterols for structural and metabolic purposes. However, insects, like all arthropods, cannot make sterols. Cholesterol is the dominant tissue sterol for most insects; insect herbivores produce cholesterol by metabolizing phytosterols, but not always with high efficiency. Many insects grow on a mixed-sterol diet, but this ability varies depending on the types and ratio of dietary sterols. Dietary sterol uptake, transport, and metabolism are regulated by several proteins and processes that are relatively conserved across eukaryotes. Sterol requirements also impact insect ecology and behavior. There is potential to exploit insect sterol requirements to (a) control insect pests in agricultural systems and (b) better understand sterol biology, including in humans. We suggest that future studies focus on the genetic mechanism of sterol metabolism and reverse transportation, characterizing sterol distribution and function at the cellular level, the role of bacterial symbionts in sterol metabolism, and interrupting sterol trafficking for pest control.