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1.  Performance of pre-commercial release formulations of spinosad against five stored-product insect species on four stored commodities 
Journal of Pest Science  2011;85(3):331-339.
Two liquid and one dry pre-commercial release spinosad formulations were evaluated at the labeled rate of 1 ppm against five stored-grain insect species on wheat, short-grain rice, long-grain rice, and maize. Except on maize, efficacy of spinosad was compared with a currently registered grain protectant, chlorpyrifos-methyl (3 ppm) plus deltamethrin (0.5 ppm). The 7- and 14-day mortalities of the lesser grain borer, Rhyzopertha dominica, were 99.0–100.0% on spinosad and chlorpyrifos-methyl plus deltamethrin-treated wheat, short-grain rice, and long-grain rice. Adult progeny of R. dominica after 42 days on these commodities decreased by 99.7–100.0% relative to progeny production on untreated wheat. Mortality and reduction in adult progeny of the rice weevil, Sitophilus oryzae, on the three commodities, and that of the maize weevil, Sitophilus zeamais, on maize and the red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum, on wheat were 100.0% only with chlorpyrifos-methyl plus deltamethrin. The liquid spinosad formulations were most effective against the Indianmeal moth, Plodia interpunctella, on maize and wheat. Except for R. dominica, the effectiveness of spinosad on the other species varied with the formulation, exposure time, and commodity. Chlorpyrifos-methyl plus deltamethrin was effective against insect species on the commodities tested.
PMCID: PMC3432197  PMID: 22962550
Spinosad formulations; Grain protectants; Stored-grain insects; Efficacy assessment
2.  Insecticidal and oviposition deterrent properties of some spices against coleopteran beetle, Sitophilus oryzae 
Eighteen spices were screened for their insecticidal potential and antiovipositional properties against the rice weevil- Sitophilus oryzae—a serious insect pest of stored food grains. The bioefficacy of the powders and hexane extracts of selected spices were determined by assessing the toxicity, effect on F1 progeny, contact toxicity, persistence and seed viability. Responses varied with the spices, dosage and exposure time. Powders of mace and pepper, at 1% level were highly effective resulting in total mortality of S. oryzae by one week followed by nutmeg and clove with 100% mortality and cinnamon and star anise with 90% mortality at 5% concentration. These spices also completely inhibited F1 progeny. The hexane extracts of these spices at 1,000 ppm showed insecticidal activity, with pepper extract recording 100% mortality by 5 days. S. oryzae was susceptible to clove oil resulting in 92% mortality. Mortality was 51.63% in nutmeg, 66.6% in cinnamon, and 79.8% in case of mace and star anise. Hexane extracts of star anise, cinnamon and clove at 0.59 μl/cm2 on filter paper discs induced 100% mortality by 72 h. These spices offered protection to wheat up to 9 months without affecting seed germination thereby showing promise as grain protectants.
PMCID: PMC3602565  PMID: 24425960
Sitophilus oryzae; Spices; Insecticidal activity; Antioviposition; Grain protectant; Persistence
3.  A New Light on the Evolution and Propagation of Prehistoric Grain Pests: The World's Oldest Maize Weevils Found in Jomon Potteries, Japan 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(3):e14785.
Three Sitophilus species (S. granarius L., S. oryzae L., and S. zeamais Mots.) are closely related based on DNA analysis of their endosymbionts. All are seed parasites of cereal crops and important economic pest species in stored grain. The Sitophilus species that currently exist, including these three species, are generally believed to be endemic to Asia's forested areas, suggesting that the first infestations of stored grain must have taken place near the forested mountains of southwestern Asia. Previous archaeological data and historical records suggest that the three species may have been diffused by the spread of Neolithic agriculture, but this hypothesis has only been established for granary weevils in European and southwestern Asian archaeological records. There was little archeological evidence for grain pests in East Asia before the discovery of maize weevil impressions in Jomon pottery in 2004 using the “impression replica” method. Our research on Jomon agriculture based on seed and insect impressions in pottery continued to seek additional evidence. In 2010, we discovered older weevil impressions in Jomon pottery dating to ca. 10 500 BP. These specimens are the oldest harmful insects in the world discovered at archaeological sites. Our results provide evidence of harmful insects living in the villages from the Earliest Jomon, when no cereals were cultivated. This suggests we must reconsider previous scenarios for the evolution and propagation of grain pest weevils, especially in eastern Asia. Although details of their biology or the foods they infested remain unclear, we hope future interdisciplinary collaborations among geneticists, entomologists, and archaeologists will provide the missing details.
PMCID: PMC3066187  PMID: 21479261
4.  Pectinmethylesterase from the rice weevil, Sitophilus oryzae: cDNA isolation and sequencing, genetic origin, and expression of the recombinant enzyme 
A cDNA clone encoding pectinmethylesterase of the rice weevil, Sitophilus oryzae (L.) has been isolated and sequenced. The cDNA clone was expressed in cultured insect cells and active pectinmethylesterase was purified from the culture medium, thus confirming that the cDNA encodes pectinmethylesterase. In situ hybridization indicated that the enzyme's transcript was present in the midgut. Weevils treated with tetracycline so that they lack genes of known symbiotic organisms still contained the pectinmethylesterase gene, indicating that the gene is encoded by the rice weevil genome. The rice weevil enzyme is most similar in sequence to bacterial pectinmethylesterases. Given this and the enzyme's apparently rather general absence from animal species, we suggest the possibility that this gene was transferred horizontally to an ancient weevil, possibly from a bacterial symbiont, and exists in Sitophilus species now as a result of that ancestral horizontal transfer.
PMCID: PMC1307582  PMID: 16341253
pectinase; pectin esterase; polygalacturonase; gut; digestive enzyme; pectin; symbiont; Wolbachia; SOPE; gene transfer
5.  Toxicity of the Essential Oil of Illicium difengpi Stem Bark and Its Constituent Compounds Towards Two Grain Storage Insects 
During our screening program for new agrochemicals from Chinese medicinal herbs, the essential oil of Illicium difengpi stem bark was found to possess strong insecticidal activities against the maize weevil, Sitophilus zeamais (Motschulsky) (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) and red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum Herbst (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae). A total of 37 components of the essential oil of I. difengpi were identified. The main components of the essential oil were safrole (23.61%), linalool (12.93%), and germacrene D (5.35%). Bioactivities-directed chromatographic separation on repeated silica gel columns led to the isolation of two compounds: safrole and linalool. Safrole showed pronounced contact toxicity against both insect species and (LD50 = 8.54 for S. zeamais; 4.67 µg/adult for T. castaneum) and was more toxic than linalool (LD50 = 24.88 for S. zeamais; 8.12 µg/adult for T. castaneum). The essential oil acting against the two species of insects showed LD50 values of 13.83 and 6.33 µg/adult, respectively. Linalool also possessed strong fumigant toxicity against both insect species (LC50 = 10.02 for S. zeamais; 9.34 mg/L for T. castaneum) and was more toxic than safrole (LD50 = 32.96 and 38.25 mg/L), while the crude essential oil acting against the two species of insects showed LC50 values of 14.62 and 16.22 mg/L, respectively. These results suggest that the essential oil of I. difengpi stem bark and the two compounds may be used in grain storage to combat insect pests.
PMCID: PMC3391920  PMID: 22236213
contact toxicity; fumigant; Sitophilus zeamais; Tribolium castaneum
6.  Do rice water weevils and rice stem borers compete when sharing a host plant?*  
The rice water weevil (RWW) Lissorhoptrus oryzophilus Kuschel (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) is an invasive insect pest of rice Oryza sativa L. in China. Little is known about the interactions of this weevil with indigenous herbivores. In the present study, adult feeding and population density of the weevil, injury level of striped stem borer Chilo suppressalis (Walker) (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) and pink stem borer Sesamia inferens (Walker) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) to rice, as well as growth status of their host plants were surveyed in a rice field located in Southeastern Zhejiang, China, in 2004 with the objective to discover interspecific interactions on the rice. At tillering stage, both adult feeding of the weevil and injury of the stem borers tended to occur on larger tillers (bearing 5 leaves) compared with small tillers (bearing 2~4 leaves), but the insects showed no evident competition with each other. At booting stage, the stem borers caused more withering/dead hearts and the weevil reached a higher density on the plants which had more productive tillers and larger root system; the number of weevils per tiller correlated negatively with the percentage of withering/dead hearts of plants in a hill. These observations indicate that interspecific interactions exist between the rice water weevil and the rice stem borers with negative relations occurring at booting or earlier developmental stages of rice.
PMCID: PMC2443354  PMID: 18600788
Chilo suppressalis; Interspecific interaction; Lissorhoptrus oryzophilus; Sesamia inferens; Stem borer; Weevil
7.  Polygalacturonase from Sitophilus oryzae: Possible horizontal transfer of a pectinase gene from fungi to weevils 
Endo-polygalacturonase, one of the group of enzymes known collectively as pectinases, is widely distributed in bacteria, plants and fungi. The enzyme has also been found in several weevil species and a few other insects, such as aphids, but not in Drosophila melanogaster, Anopheles gambiae, or Caenorhabditis elegans or, as far as is known, in any more primitive animal species. What, then, is the genetic origin of the polygalacturonases in weevils? Since some weevil species harbor symbiotic microorganisms, it has been suggested, reasonably, that the symbionts' genomes of both aphids and weevils, rather than the insects' genomes, could encode polygalacturonase. We report here the cloning of a cDNA that encodes endo-polygalacturonase in the rice weevil, Sitophilus oryzae (L.), and investigations based on the cloned cDNA. Our results, which include analysis of genes in antibiotic-treated rice weevils, indicate that the enzyme is, in fact, encoded by the insect genome. Given the apparent absence of the gene in much of the rest of the animal kingdom, it is therefore likely that the rice weevil polygalacturonase gene was incorporated into the weevil's genome by horizontal transfer, possibly from a fungus.
PMCID: PMC524663  PMID: 15841240
8.  Protein-enriched pea flour extract protects stored milled rice against the rice weevil, Sitophilus oryzae 
Studies were conducted to evaluate the effect of a protein-enriched pea (Pisum sativum var. Bonneville) flour extract against the rice weevil, Sitophilus oryzae in its repellency, toxicity, effect on fecundity, stability and sensory properties. Milled rice admixed with pea flour extract at 1% concentration significantly repelled S. oryzae. Mortality of S. oryzae was found to increase and fecundity was markedly suppressed, in rice treated with 1% pea flour extract. The toxicity and reproductive effects of the pea protein-enriched rice were found to be stable for a period of 5 months. The sensory characteristics of stored rice when eaten were not affected by the treatment with pea flour extract. This study indicates that the protein-enriched flour extract obtained from the Bonneville pea may be feasible to protect stored milled rice from insect attack.
PMCID: PMC1081569  PMID: 15861241
repellency; toxicity; fecundity; stability; sensory properties
9.  Pleiotropic Impact of Endosymbiont Load and Co-Occurrence in the Maize Weevil Sitophilus zeamais 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e111396.
Individual traits vary among and within populations, and the co-occurrence of different endosymbiont species within a host may take place under varying endosymbiont loads in each individual host. This makes the recognition of the potential impact of such endosymbiont associations in insect species difficult, particularly in insect pest species. The maize weevil, Sitophilus zeamais Motsch. (Coleoptera: Curculionidae), a key pest species of stored cereal grains, exhibits associations with two endosymbiotic bacteria: the obligatory endosymbiont SZPE (“Sitophilus zeamais Primary Endosymbiont”) and the facultative endosymbiont Wolbachia. The impact of the lack of SZPE in maize weevil physiology is the impairment of nutrient acquisition and energy metabolism, while Wolbachia is an important factor in reproductive incompatibility. However, the role of endosymbiont load and co-occurrence in insect behavior, grain consumption, body mass and subsequent reproductive factors has not yet been explored. Here we report on the impacts of co-occurrence and varying endosymbiont loads achieved via thermal treatment and antibiotic provision via ingested water in the maize weevil. SZPE exhibited strong effects on respiration rate, grain consumption and weevil body mass, with observed effects on weevil behavior, particularly flight activity, and potential consequences for the management of this pest species. Wolbachia directly favored weevil fertility and exhibited only mild indirect effects, usually enhancing the SZPE effect. SZPE suppression delayed weevil emergence, which reduced the insect population growth rate, and the thermal inactivation of both symbionts prevented insect reproduction. Such findings are likely important for strain divergences reported in the maize weevil and their control, aspects still deserving future attention.
PMCID: PMC4210188  PMID: 25347417
10.  Host gene response to endosymbiont and pathogen in the cereal weevil Sitophilus oryzae 
BMC Microbiology  2012;12(Suppl 1):S14.
Insects thriving on nutritionally poor habitats have integrated mutualistic intracellular symbiotic bacteria (endosymbionts) in a bacteria-bearing tissue (the bacteriome) that isolates the endosymbionts and protects them against a host systemic immune response. Whilst the metabolic and physiological features of long-term insect associations have been investigated in detail over the past decades, cellular and immune regulations that determine the host response to endosymbionts and pathogens have attracted interest more recently.
To investigate bacteriome cellular specificities and weevil immune responses to bacteria, we have constructed and sequenced 7 cDNA libraries from Sitophilus oryzae whole larvae and bacteriomes. Bioinformatic analysis of 26,886 ESTs led to the generation of 8,941 weevil unigenes. Based on in silico analysis and on the examination of genes involved in the cellular pathways of potential interest to intracellular symbiosis (i.e. cell growth and apoptosis, autophagy, immunity), we have selected and analyzed 29 genes using qRT-PCR, taking into consideration bacteriome specificity and symbiosis impact on the host response to pathogens. We show that the bacteriome tissue accumulates transcripts from genes involved in cellular development and survival, such as the apoptotic inhibitors iap2 and iap3, and endosomal fusion and trafficking, such as Rab7, Hrs, and SNARE. As regards our investigation into immunity, we first strengthen the bacteriome immunomodulation previously reported in S. zeamais. We show that the sarcotoxin, the c-type lysozyme, and the wpgrp2 genes are downregulated in the S. oryzae bacteriome, when compared to aposymbiotic insects and insects challenged with E. coli. Secondly, transcript level comparison between symbiotic and aposymbiotic larvae provides evidence that the immune systemic response to pathogens is decreased in symbiotic insects, as shown by the relatively high expression of wpgrp2, wpgrp3, coleoptericin-B, diptericin, and sarcotoxin genes in aposymbiotic insects.
Library sequencing significantly increased the number of unigenes, allowing for improved functional and genetic investigations in the cereal weevil S. oryzae. Transcriptomic analyses support selective and local immune gene expression in the bacteriome tissue and uncover cellular pathways that are of potential interest to bacteriocyte survival and homeostasis. Bacterial challenge experiments have revealed that the systemic immune response would be less induced in a symbiotic insect, thus highlighting new perspectives on host immunity in long-term invertebrate co-evolutionary associations.
PMCID: PMC3287511  PMID: 22375912
11.  Transcriptome Analysis in Cotton Boll Weevil (Anthonomus grandis) and RNA Interference in Insect Pests 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e85079.
Cotton plants are subjected to the attack of several insect pests. In Brazil, the cotton boll weevil, Anthonomus grandis, is the most important cotton pest. The use of insecticidal proteins and gene silencing by interference RNA (RNAi) as techniques for insect control are promising strategies, which has been applied in the last few years. For this insect, there are not much available molecular information on databases. Using 454-pyrosequencing methodology, the transcriptome of all developmental stages of the insect pest, A. grandis, was analyzed. The A. grandis transcriptome analysis resulted in more than 500.000 reads and a data set of high quality 20,841 contigs. After sequence assembly and annotation, around 10,600 contigs had at least one BLAST hit against NCBI non-redundant protein database and 65.7% was similar to Tribolium castaneum sequences. A comparison of A. grandis, Drosophila melanogaster and Bombyx mori protein families’ data showed higher similarity to dipteran than to lepidopteran sequences. Several contigs of genes encoding proteins involved in RNAi mechanism were found. PAZ Domains sequences extracted from the transcriptome showed high similarity and conservation for the most important functional and structural motifs when compared to PAZ Domains from 5 species. Two SID-like contigs were phylogenetically analyzed and grouped with T. castaneum SID-like proteins. No RdRP gene was found. A contig matching chitin synthase 1 was mined from the transcriptome. dsRNA microinjection of a chitin synthase gene to A. grandis female adults resulted in normal oviposition of unviable eggs and malformed alive larvae that were unable to develop in artificial diet. This is the first study that characterizes the transcriptome of the coleopteran, A. grandis. A new and representative transcriptome database for this insect pest is now available. All data support the state of the art of RNAi mechanism in insects.
PMCID: PMC3874031  PMID: 24386449
12.  Comparative Genomics of Insect-Symbiotic Bacteria: Influence of Host Environment on Microbial Genome Composition 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2003;69(11):6825-6832.
Commensal symbionts, thought to be intermediary amid obligate mutualists and facultative parasites, offer insight into forces driving the evolutionary transition into mutualism. Using macroarrays developed for a close relative, Escherichia coli, we utilized a heterologous array hybridization approach to infer the genomic compositions of a clade of bacteria that have recently established symbiotic associations: Sodalis glossinidius with the tsetse fly (Diptera, Glossina spp.) and Sitophilus oryzae primary endosymbiont (SOPE) with the rice weevil (Coleoptera, Sitophilus oryzae). Functional biologies within their hosts currently reflect different forms of symbiotic associations. Their hosts, members of distant insect taxa, occupy distinct ecological niches and have evolved to survive on restricted diets of blood for tsetse and cereal for the rice weevil. Comparison of genome contents between the two microbes indicates statistically significant differences in the retention of genes involved in carbon compound catabolism, energy metabolism, fatty acid metabolism, and transport. The greatest reductions have occurred in carbon catabolism, membrane proteins, and cell structure-related genes for Sodalis and in genes involved in cellular processes (i.e., adaptations towards cellular conditions) for SOPE. Modifications in metabolic pathways, in the form of functional losses complementing particularities in host physiology and ecology, may have occurred upon initial entry from a free-living to a symbiotic state. It is possible that these adaptations, streamlining genomes, act to make a free-living state no longer feasible for the harnessed microbe.
PMCID: PMC262273  PMID: 14602646
13.  Quorum Sensing Primes the Oxidative Stress Response in the Insect Endosymbiont, Sodalis glossinidius 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(10):e3541.
Sodalis glossinidius, a maternally transmitted bacterial endosymbiont of tsetse flies (Glossina spp.), uses an acylated homoserine lactone (AHL)-based quorum sensing system to modulate gene expression in accordance with bacterial cell density. The S. glossinidius quorum sensing system relies on the function of two regulatory proteins; SogI (a LuxI homolog) synthesizes a signaling molecule, characterized as N-(3-oxohexanoyl) homoserine lactone (OHHL), and SogR1 (a LuxR homolog) interacts with OHHL to modulate transcription of specific target genes.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We used a tiling microarray to analyze the S. glossinidius transcriptome in the presence and absence of exogenous OHHL. The major finding is that OHHL increases transcription of a large number of genes that are known to be involved in the oxidative stress response. We also show that the obligate symbiont of the rice weevil, Sitophilus oryzae (SOPE), maintains copies of the quorum sensing regulatory genes that are found in S. glossinidius. Molecular evolutionary analyses indicate that these sequences are evolving under stabilizing selection, consistent with the maintenance of their functions in the SOPE symbiosis. Finally, the expression studies in S. glossinidius also reveal that quorum sensing regulates the expression of a cryptic, degenerate gene (carA) that arose from an ancient deletion in the last common ancestor of S. glossinidius and SOPE.
This oxidative stress response is likely mandated under conditions of dense intracellular symbiont infection, when intense metabolic activity is expected to generate a heavy oxidative burden. Such conditions are known to arise in the bacteriocytes of grain weevils, which harbor dense intracellular infections of symbiotic bacteria that are closely related to S. glossinidius. The presence of a degenerate carA sequence in S. glossinidius and SOPE indicates the potential for neofunctionalization to occur during the process of genome degeneration.
PMCID: PMC2568817  PMID: 18958153
14.  RNAi in the cereal weevil Sitophilus spp: Systemic gene knockdown in the bacteriome tissue 
BMC Biotechnology  2009;9:44.
The weevils Sitophilus spp. are among the most important cosmopolitan pests of stored cereal grains. However, their biology and physiology are poorly understood, mainly because the insect developmental stages take place within cereal grains and because of the lack of gene specific molecular manipulation.
To gain access to the different insect developmental stages, weevil females were allowed to lay their eggs on starch pellets and hatched embryos were collected by dissolving starch with water. Embryos were transferred between two Glass Plates filled with packed Flour (GPF) to mimic compact texture of the cereal grain, and this system allowed us to recover specific developmental stages. To knockdown the gene expressed in the bacteria-bearing organ (the bacteriome), whole larvae were injected with dsRNA to target the wpgrp1 gene and they were then left to develop for a further 4 days period. Quantitative RT-PCR and Western blot analyses on the bacteriome of these animals revealed a down-regulation of the wpgrp1 expression, both at transcript and protein levels.
These results demonstrate that whole larval injection with dsRNA results in a high and systemic decrease of both mRNA and protein in the bacteriome tissue. This, along with the possibility of access to the insect developmental stages, opens up a new research avenue for exploring gene specific functions in the cereal weevils.
PMCID: PMC2687439  PMID: 19445662
15.  Pea Albumin 1 Subunit b (PA1b), a Promising Bioinsecticide of Plant Origin 
Toxins  2011;3(12):1502-1517.
PA1b (Pea Albumin 1, subunit b) is a peptide extract from pea seeds showing significant insecticidal activity against certain insects, such as cereal weevils (genus Sitophilus), the mosquitoes Culex pipiens and Aedes aegyptii, and certain species of aphids. PA1b has great potential for use on an industrial scale and for use in organic farming: it is extracted from a common plant; it is a peptide (and therefore suitable for transgenic applications); it can withstand many steps of extraction and purification without losing its activity; and it is present in a seed regularly consumed by humans and mammals without any known toxicity or allergenicity. The potential of this peptide to limit pest damage has stimulated research concerning its host range, its mechanism of action, its three-dimensional structure, the natural diversity of PA1b and its structure-function relationships.
PMCID: PMC3268454  PMID: 22295174
PA1b; insect; bioinsecticide; Legumes
16.  Influence of Temperature and Humidity on the Efficacy of Spinosad Against Four Stored-Grain Beetle Species 
In the present work, we examined the insecticidal effect of spinosad, against adults of the lesser grain borer, Rhyzopertha dominica (F.) (Coleoptera: Bostrychidae), the rice weevil, Sitophilus oryzae (L.) (Coleoptera: Curculionidae), the confused flour beetle, Tribolium confusum Jacquelin du Val (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae) on wheat and the larger grain borer, Prostephanus truncatus (Horn) (Coleoptera: Bostrychidae) on maize. The dose rates used were 0.01, 0.1, 0.5 and 1 ppm. The bioassays were carried out at three temperatures, 20, 25 and 30°C and two relative humidity levels, 55 and 75%. Mortality of R. dominica and S. oryzae was high even at 0.01 ppm of spinosad, reaching 100% at 55% relative humidity and 30° after 21 days of exposure. Generally, mortality of R. dominica, increased with temperature while for S. oryzae mortality increased with temperature and with the decrease of relative humidity. Moreover, for S. oryzae, mortality was low at 20°C. In the case of T. confusum, mortality was low at doses between 0.01 and 0.5 ppm even after 21 days of exposure. At 1 ppm, mortality exceeded 90% only at 30°C and only after 21 days of exposure. Mortality of P. truncatus was low on maize treated with 0.01 ppm, but increasing the dose to 0.1 ppm resulted in > 87% mortality after 14 days of exposure. In several combinations tested, spinosad efficacy notably varied according to the temperature and humidity regimes. Of the species tested, R. dominica and P. truncatus were very susceptible to spinosad, followed by S. oryzae, while T. confusum was the least susceptible.
PMCID: PMC3062500  PMID: 20302538
spinosad; wheat; maize; abiotic conditions; grain protectants; Rhyzopertha dominica; Sitophilus oryzae; Tribolium confusum; Prostephanus truncatus
17.  Host habitat assessment by a parasitoid using fungal volatiles 
The preference – performance hypothesis predicts that oviposition preference of insects should correlate with host suitability for offspring development. Therefore, insect females have to be able to assess not only the quality of a given host but also the environmental conditions of the respective host habitat. Chemical cues are a major source of information used by insects for this purpose. Primary infestation of stored grain by stored product pests often favors the intense growth of mold. This can lead to distinct sites of extreme environmental conditions (hot-spots) with increased insect mortality. We studied the influence of mold on chemical orientation, host recognition, and fitness of Lariophagus distinguendus, a parasitoid of beetle larvae developing in stored grain.
Volatiles of wheat infested by Aspergillus sydowii and A. versicolor repelled female parasitoids in an olfactometer. Foraging L. distinguendus females are known to be strongly attracted to the odor of larval host feces from the granary weevil Sitophilus granarius, which may adhere in remarkable amounts to the surface of the grains. Feces from moldy weevil cultures elicited neutral responses but parasitoids clearly avoided moldy feces when non-moldy feces were offered simultaneously. The common fungal volatile 1-octen-3-ol was the major component of the odor of larval feces from moldy weevil cultures and repelled female parasitoids at naturally occurring doses. In bioassays investigating host recognition behavior of L. distinguendus, females spent less time on grains containing hosts from moldy weevil cultures and showed less drumming and drilling behavior than on non-moldy controls. L. distinguendus had a clearly reduced fitness on hosts from moldy weevil cultures.
We conclude that L. distinguendus females use 1-octen-3-ol for host habitat assessment to avoid negative fitness consequences due to secondary mold infestation of host patches. The female response to fungal volatiles is innate, suggesting that host-associated fungi played a crucial role in the evolution of host finding strategies of L. distinguendus. Research on the role of host-associated microorganisms in the chemically mediated orientation of parasitoids is still at the beginning. We expect an increasing recognition of this issue in the future.
PMCID: PMC1797040  PMID: 17284315
18.  Improving Cry8Ka toxin activity towards the cotton boll weevil (Anthonomus grandis) 
BMC Biotechnology  2011;11:85.
The cotton boll weevil (Anthonomus grandis) is a serious insect-pest in the Americas, particularly in Brazil. The use of chemical or biological insect control is not effective against the cotton boll weevil because of its endophytic life style. Therefore, the use of biotechnological tools to produce insect-resistant transgenic plants represents an important strategy to reduce the damage to cotton plants caused by the boll weevil. The present study focuses on the identification of novel molecules that show improved toxicity against the cotton boll weevil. In vitro directed molecular evolution through DNA shuffling and phage display screening was applied to enhance the insecticidal activity of variants of the Cry8Ka1 protein of Bacillus thuringiensis.
Bioassays carried out with A. grandis larvae revealed that the LC50 of the screened mutant Cry8Ka5 toxin was 3.15-fold higher than the wild-type Cry8Ka1 toxin. Homology modelling of Cry8Ka1 and the Cry8Ka5 mutant suggested that both proteins retained the typical three-domain Cry family structure. The mutated residues were located mostly in loops and appeared unlikely to interfere with molecular stability.
The improved toxicity of the Cry8Ka5 mutant obtained in this study will allow the generation of a transgenic cotton event with improved potential to control A. grandis.
PMCID: PMC3179717  PMID: 21906288
Anthonomus grandis; Bacillus thuringiensis; Cotton; DNA shuffling; Phage display; Molecular modeling
19.  Insecticidal activity of the root extract of Decalepis hamiltonii against stored-product insect pests and its application in grain protection 
Root extracts of Decalepis hamiltonii were tested for insecticidal activity against the stored products pests, Rhyzopertha domonica, Sitophilus oryzae, Stigobium pancieum, Tribolium castaneum and Callosobruchus chinensis, in residual and contact toxicity bioassays. Methanolic extract showed LC50 value of 0.14 mg/cm2 for all the test species in a filter paper residual bioassay. The extract was effective as a grain protectant for wheat and green gram. Reduction of F1 progeny was observed in treated grain stored for 3–4 months. The extract did not affect the germination of the treated grains. Our results indicate that methanolic extracts of D. hamiltonii has a potential to control stored product pests and could serve as a natural grain protectant.
PMCID: PMC3551033  PMID: 23572643
Decalepis hamiltonii; Methanolic extract; Insecticidal activity; Insect pests; Grain protection
20.  Subcellular localisation of Medicago truncatula 9/13-hydroperoxide lyase reveals a new localisation pattern and activation mechanism for CYP74C enzymes 
BMC Plant Biology  2007;7:58.
Hydroperoxide lyase (HPL) is a key enzyme in plant oxylipin metabolism that catalyses the cleavage of polyunsaturated fatty acid hydroperoxides produced by the action of lipoxygenase (LOX) to volatile aldehydes and oxo acids. The synthesis of these volatile aldehydes is rapidly induced in plant tissues upon mechanical wounding and insect or pathogen attack. Together with their direct defence role towards different pathogens, these compounds are believed to play an important role in signalling within and between plants, and in the molecular cross-talk between plants and other organisms surrounding them. We have recently described the targeting of a seed 9-HPL to microsomes and putative lipid bodies and were interested to compare the localisation patterns of both a 13-HPL and a 9/13-HPL from Medicago truncatula, which were known to be expressed in leaves and roots, respectively.
To study the subcellular localisation of plant 9/13-HPLs, a set of YFP-tagged chimeric constructs were prepared using two M. truncatula HPL cDNAs and the localisation of the corresponding chimeras were verified by confocal microscopy in tobacco protoplasts and leaves. Results reported here indicated a distribution of M.truncatula 9/13-HPL (HPLF) between cytosol and lipid droplets (LD) whereas, as expected, M.truncatula 13-HPL (HPLE) was targeted to plastids. Notably, such endocellular localisation has not yet been reported previously for any 9/13-HPL. To verify a possible physiological significance of such association, purified recombinant HPLF was used in activation experiments with purified seed lipid bodies. Our results showed that lipid bodies can fully activate HPLF.
We provide evidence for the first CYP74C enzyme, to be targeted to cytosol and LD. We also showed by sedimentation and kinetic analyses that the association with LD or lipid bodies can result in the protein conformational changes required for full activation of the enzyme. This activation mechanism, which supports previous in vitro work with synthetic detergent micelle, fits well with a mechanism for regulating the rate of release of volatile aldehydes that is observed soon after wounding or tissue disruption.
PMCID: PMC2180173  PMID: 17983471
21.  Transcriptome Analysis of Barbarea vulgaris Infested with Diamondback Moth (Plutella xylostella) Larvae 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e64481.
The diamondback moth (DBM, Plutella xylostella) is a crucifer-specific pest that causes significant crop losses worldwide. Barbarea vulgaris (Brassicaceae) can resist DBM and other herbivorous insects by producing feeding-deterrent triterpenoid saponins. Plant breeders have long aimed to transfer this insect resistance to other crops. However, a lack of knowledge on the biosynthetic pathways and regulatory networks of these insecticidal saponins has hindered their practical application. A pyrosequencing-based transcriptome analysis of B. vulgaris during DBM larval feeding was performed to identify genes and gene networks responsible for saponin biosynthesis and its regulation at the genome level.
Principal Findings
Approximately 1.22, 1.19, 1.16, 1.23, 1.16, 1.20, and 2.39 giga base pairs of clean nucleotides were generated from B. vulgaris transcriptomes sampled 1, 4, 8, 12, 24, and 48 h after onset of P. xylostella feeding and from non-inoculated controls, respectively. De novo assembly using all data of the seven transcriptomes generated 39,531 unigenes. A total of 37,780 (95.57%) unigenes were annotated, 14,399 of which were assigned to one or more gene ontology terms and 19,620 of which were assigned to 126 known pathways. Expression profiles revealed 2,016–4,685 up-regulated and 557–5188 down-regulated transcripts. Secondary metabolic pathways, such as those of terpenoids, glucosinolates, and phenylpropanoids, and its related regulators were elevated. Candidate genes for the triterpene saponin pathway were found in the transcriptome. Orthological analysis of the transcriptome with four other crucifer transcriptomes identified 592 B. vulgaris-specific gene families with a P-value cutoff of 1e−5.
This study presents the first comprehensive transcriptome analysis of B. vulgaris subjected to a series of DBM feedings. The biosynthetic and regulatory pathways of triterpenoid saponins and other DBM deterrent metabolites in this plant were classified. The results of this study will provide useful data for future investigations on pest-resistance phytochemistry and plant breeding.
PMCID: PMC3655962  PMID: 23696897
22.  Millworkers' Asthma: Allergic Responses to the Grain Weevil (Sitophilus granarius) 
Two laboratory workers, who spent a considerable time each day handling grain infested by the grain weevil (Sitophilus granarius), developed allergic responses to this insect varying from rhinitis and pruritus to marked asthma. These findings suggested that weevil protein present in mill dust could result in sensitization in those exposed continuously. A pilot study was therefore undertaken on 75 volunteer millworkers to determine whether such sensitivity existed. A millworker was defined as anyone who worked in a flour mill or mill producing animal feed from mixed cereals, or who worked in grain-storing silos.
Skin testing with weevil, mixed flour extracts, and a control was carried out on all 75 volunteers; 57% had a positive response to the weevil extract and 68% a positive response to the mixed flour extract. In a control group of 100 workers from two engineering firms matched for age and sex, 34% were positive to the weevil extract and 17% to mixed flour.
From the initial 75 millworkers, 15 were selected for further study based on a positive skin response to the weevil and a history of a productive cough and chest tightness and wheezing when exposed to mill dust. The forced expiratory volume in one second (F.E.V.1·0) was measured after control inhalations and after weevil and mixed flour inhalations. Significant reductions of 20% and 15·4% were found in two subjects after inhalation of weevil extract. In one case wheezing and cough developed. The changes in F.E.V.1·0 were reversed after inhalation of a bronchodilator aerosol.
Twenty-five of the control subjects with positive skin responses to the grain weevil were given similar provocation inhalations but none showed any significant change in F.E.V.1·0.
This pilot study suggests that grain weevil sensitivity is an additional factor in millworkers' asthma.
PMCID: PMC1008388  PMID: 5929689
23.  Foam Properties and Detergent Abilities of the Saponins from Camellia oleifera 
The defatted seed meal of Camellia oleifera has been used as a natural detergent and its extract is commercially utilized as a foam-stabilizing and emulsifying agent. The goal of this study was to investigate the foam properties and detergent ability of the saponins from the defatted seed meal of C. oleifera. The crude saponin content in the defatted seed meal of C. oleifera was 8.34 and the total saponins content in the crude saponins extract was 39.5% (w/w). The foaming power of the 0.5 crude saponins extract solution from defatted seed meal of C. oleifera was 37.1 of 0.5 SLS solution and 51.3% to that of 0.5% Tween 80 solution. The R5 value of 86.0% represents good foam stability of the crude saponins extracted from the defatted seed meal of the plant. With the reduction of water surface tension from 72 mN/m to 50.0 mN/m, the 0.5% crude saponins extract solution has wetting ability. The sebum-removal experiment indicated that the crude saponins extract has moderate detergency. The detergent abilities of the saponins from C. oleifera and Sapindus mukorossi were also compared.
PMCID: PMC3000090  PMID: 21151446
Camellia oleifera; saponin; foam; wetting; detergency
24.  Weevil x Insecticide: Does ‘Personality’ Matter? 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e67283.
An insect’s behavior is the expression of its integrated physiology in response to external and internal stimuli, turning insect behavior into a potential determinant of insecticide exposure. Behavioral traits may therefore influence insecticide efficacy against insects, compromising the validity of standard bioassays of insecticide activity, which are fundamentally based on lethality alone. By extension, insect ‘personality’ (i.e., an individual’s integrated set of behavioral tendencies that is inferred from multiple empirical measures) may also be an important determinant of insecticide exposure and activity. This has yet to be considered because the behavioral studies involving insects and insecticides focus on populations rather than on individuals. Even among studies of animal ‘personality’, the relative contributions of individual and population variation are usually neglected. Here, we assessed behavioral traits (within the categories: activity, boldness/shyness, and exploration/avoidance) of individuals from 15 populations of the maize weevil (Sitophilus zeamais), an important stored-grain pest with serious problems of insecticide resistance, and correlated the behavioral responses with the activity of the insecticide deltamethrin. This analysis was performed at both the population and individual levels. There was significant variation in weevil ‘personality’ among individuals and populations, but variation among individuals within populations accounted for most of the observed variation (92.57%). This result emphasizes the importance of individual variation in behavioral and ‘personality’ studies. When the behavioral traits assessed were correlated with median lethal time (LT50) at the population level and with the survival time under insecticide exposure, activity traits, particularly the distance walked, significantly increased survival time. Therefore, behavioral traits are important components of insecticide efficacy, and individual variation should be considered in such studies. This is so because population differences provided only crude approximation of the individual personality in a restrained experimental setting likely to restrict individual behavior favoring the transposition of the individual variation to the population.
PMCID: PMC3694026  PMID: 23840652
25.  Knockdown of Midgut Genes by dsRNA-Transgenic Plant-Mediated RNA Interference in the Hemipteran Insect Nilaparvata lugens 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(5):e20504.
RNA interference (RNAi) is a powerful technique for functional genomics research in insects. Transgenic plants producing double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) directed against insect genes have been reported for lepidopteran and coleopteran insects, showing potential for field-level control of insect pests, but this has not been reported for other insect orders.
Methodology/Principal Findings
The Hemipteran insect brown planthopper (Nilaparvata lugens Stål) is a typical phloem sap feeder specific to rice (Oryza sativa L.). To analyze the potential of exploiting RNAi-mediated effects in this insect, we identified genes (Nlsid-1 and Nlaub) encoding proteins that might be involved in the RNAi pathway in N. lugens. Both genes are expressed ubiquitously in nymphs and adult insects. Three genes (the hexose transporter gene NlHT1, the carboxypeptidase gene Nlcar and the trypsin-like serine protease gene Nltry) that are highly expressed in the N. lugens midgut were isolated and used to develop dsRNA constructs for transforming rice. RNA blot analysis showed that the dsRNAs were transcribed and some of them were processed to siRNAs in the transgenic lines. When nymphs were fed on rice plants expressing dsRNA, levels of transcripts of the targeted genes in the midgut were reduced; however, lethal phenotypic effects after dsRNA feeding were not observed.
Our study shows that genes for the RNAi pathway (Nlsid-1 and Nlaub) are present in N. lugens. When insects were fed on rice plant materials expressing dsRNAs, RNA interference was triggered and the target genes transcript levels were suppressed. The gene knockdown technique described here may prove to be a valuable tool for further investigations in N. lugens. The results demonstrate the potential of dsRNA-mediated RNAi for field-level control of planthoppers, but appropriate target genes must be selected when designing the dsRNA-transgenic plants.
PMCID: PMC3105074  PMID: 21655219

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