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1.  GluCl a target of indole alkaloid okaramines: a 25 year enigma solved 
Scientific Reports  2014;4:6190.
In 1989, indole alkaloid okaramines isolated from the fermentation products of Penicillium simplicissimum were shown to be insecticidal, yet the mechanism of their toxicity to insects remains unknown. We therefore examined the action of okaramine B on silkworm larval neurons using patch-clamp electrophysiology. Okaramine B induced inward currents which reversed close to the chloride equilibrium potential and were blocked by fipronil. Thus it was tested on the silkworm RDL (resistant-to-dieldrin) γ-aminobutyric-acid-gated chloride channel (GABACl) and a silkworm L-glutamate-gated chloride channel (GluCl) expressed in Xenopus laevis oocytes. Okaramine B activated GluCl, but not RDL. GluCl activation by okaramines correlated with their insecticidal activity, offering a solution to a long-standing enigma concerning their insecticidal actions. Also, unlike ivermectin, okaramine B was inactive at 10 μM on human α1β2γ2 GABACl and α1β glycine-gated chloride channels and provides a new lead for the development of safe insect control chemicals.
PMCID: PMC4143795  PMID: 25155752
2.  Functional characterisation of a nicotinic acetylcholine receptor α subunit from the brown dog tick, Rhipicephalus sanguineus☆ 
•A nicotinic acetylcholine receptor α-subunit (Rsanα1) was identified in Rhipicephalus sanguineus.•Rsanα1 was not restricted to the synganglion (“brain”).•Rsanα1 was functionally expressed in Xenopus oocytes.•Rsanα1 responded to acetylcholine, nicotine and choline.•Rsanα1 was unresponsive to imidacloprid and spinosad.
Ticks and tick-borne diseases have a major impact on human and animal health worldwide. Current control strategies rely heavily on the use of chemical acaricides, most of which target the CNS and with increasing resistance, new drugs are urgently needed. Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) are targets of highly successful insecticides. We isolated a full-length nAChR α subunit from a normalised cDNA library from the synganglion (brain) of the brown dog tick, Rhipicephalus sanguineus. Phylogenetic analysis has shown this R. sanguineus nAChR to be most similar to the insect α1 nAChR group and has been named Rsanα1. Rsanα1 is distributed in multiple tick tissues and is present across all life-stages. When expressed in Xenopus laevis oocytes Rsanα1 failed to function as a homomer, with and without the addition of either Caenorhabditis elegans resistance-to-cholinesterase (RIC)-3 or X. laevis RIC-3. When co-expressed with chicken β2 nAChR, Rsanα1 evoked concentration-dependent, inward currents in response to acetylcholine (ACh) and showed sensitivity to nicotine (100 μM) and choline (100 μM). Rsanα1/β2 was insensitive to both imidacloprid (100 μM) and spinosad (100 μM). The unreliable expression of Rsanα1 in vitro suggests that additional subunits or chaperone proteins may be required for more robust expression. This study enhances our understanding of nAChRs in arachnids and may provide a basis for further studies on the interaction of compounds with the tick nAChR as part of a discovery process for novel acaricides.
PMCID: PMC4029082  PMID: 24291321
Rhipicephalus sanguineus; Tick; Ion channel; Acaricide; Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor; Xenopus oocytes; Imidacloprid
3.  Plant communication 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2012;7(2):222-226.
Plants emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as a means to warn other plants of impending danger. Nearby plants exposed to the induced VOCs prepare their own defense weapons in response. Accumulated data supports this assertion, yet much of the evidence has been obtained in laboratories under artificial conditions where, for example, a single VOC might be applied at a concentration that plants do not actually experience in nature. Experiments conducted outdoors suggest that communication occurs only within a limited distance from the damaged plants. Thus, the question remains as to whether VOCs work as a single component or a specific blend, and at which concentrations VOCs elicit insect and pathogen defenses in undamaged plants. We discuss these issues based on available literature and our recent work, and propose future directions in this field.
PMCID: PMC3405699  PMID: 22353877
cis-jasmone; ethylene; green leaf volatiles; isoprene; methyl jasmonate; methyl salicylate; plant-plant communications; pyrethrins; terpenoids; volatile organic compounds; within-plant communications
4.  A Fungal Metabolite Asperparaline A Strongly and Selectively Blocks Insect Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors: The First Report on the Mode of Action 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(4):e18354.
Asperparalines produced by Aspergillus japonicus JV-23 induce paralysis in silkworm (Bombyx mori) larvae, but the target underlying insect toxicity remains unknown. In the present study, we have investigated the actions of asperparaline A on ligand-gated ion channels expressed in cultured larval brain neurons of the silkworm using patch-clamp electrophysiology. Bath-application of asperparaline A (10 µM) had no effect on the membrane current, but when delivered for 1 min prior to co-application with 10 µM acetylcholine (ACh), it blocked completely the ACh-induced current that was sensitive to mecamylamine, a nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR)-selective antaogonist. In contrast, 10 µM asperparaline A was ineffective on the γ-aminobutyric acid- and L-glutamate-induced responses of the Bombyx larval neurons. The fungal alkaloid showed no-use dependency in blocking the ACh-induced response with distinct affinity for the peak and slowly-desensitizing current amplitudes of the response to 10 µM ACh in terms of IC50 values of 20.2 and 39.6 nM, respectively. Asperparaline A (100 nM) reduced the maximum neuron response to ACh with a minimal shift in EC50, suggesting that the alkaloid is non-competitive with ACh. In contrast to showing marked blocking action on the insect nAChRs, it exhibited only a weak blocking action on chicken α3β4, α4β2 and α7 nAChRs expressed in Xenopus laevis oocytes, suggesting a high selectivity for insect over certain vertebrate nAChRs.
PMCID: PMC3069973  PMID: 21483774
5.  Crystal structures of Lymnaea stagnalis AChBP in complex with neonicotinoid insecticides imidacloprid and clothianidin 
Invertebrate Neuroscience   2008;8(2):71-81.
Neonicotinoid insecticides, which act on nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) in a variety of ways, have extremely low mammalian toxicity, yet the molecular basis of such actions is poorly understood. To elucidate the molecular basis for nAChR–neonicotinoid interactions, a surrogate protein, acetylcholine binding protein from Lymnaea stagnalis (Ls-AChBP) was crystallized in complex with neonicotinoid insecticides imidacloprid (IMI) or clothianidin (CTD). The crystal structures suggested that the guanidine moiety of IMI and CTD stacks with Tyr185, while the nitro group of IMI but not of CTD makes a hydrogen bond with Gln55. IMI showed higher binding affinity for Ls-AChBP than that of CTD, consistent with weaker CH–π interactions in the Ls-AChBP–CTD complex than in the Ls-AChBP–IMI complex and the lack of the nitro group-Gln55 hydrogen bond in CTD. Yet, the NH at position 1 of CTD makes a hydrogen bond with the backbone carbonyl of Trp143, offering an explanation for the diverse actions of neonicotinoids on nAChRs.
PMCID: PMC2413115  PMID: 18338186
Acetylcholine binding protein (Lymnaea stagnalis); Crystal structures; Neonicotinoids; Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors; Ion channels
6.  Cloning, Functional Characterization, and Mode of Action of a Novel Insecticidal Pore-Forming Toxin, Sphaericolysin, Produced by Bacillus sphaericus▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2007;73(10):3404-3411.
An insecticidal protein produced by Bacillus sphaericus A3-2 was purified to elucidate its structure and mode of action. The active principle purified from the culture broth of A3-2 was a protein with a molecular mass of 53 kDa that rapidly intoxicated German cockroaches (Blattela germanica) at a dose of about 100 ng when injected. The insecticidal protein sphaericolysin possessed the undecapeptide motif of cholesterol-dependent cytolysins and had a unique N-terminal sequence. The recombinant protein expressed in Escherichia coli was equally as potent as the native protein. Sphaericolysin-induced hemolysis resulted from the protein's pore-forming action. This activity as well as the insecticidal activity was markedly reduced by a Y159A mutation. Also, coapplication of sphaericolysin with cholesterol abolished the insecticidal action, suggesting that cholesterol binding plays an important role in insecticidal activity. Sphaericolysin-lysed neurons dissociated from the thoracic ganglia of the German cockroaches. In addition, sphaericolysin's activity in ganglia was suppressed by the Y159A mutation. The sphaericolysin-induced damage to the cockroach ganglia was greater than the damage to the ganglia of common cutworms (Spodoptera litura), which accounts, at least in part, for the higher sensitivity to sphaericolysin displayed by the cockroaches than that displayed by cutworms.
PMCID: PMC1907092  PMID: 17400778

Results 1-6 (6)