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1.  Novel biopesticide based on a spider venom peptide shows no adverse effects on honeybees 
Evidence is accumulating that commonly used pesticides are linked to decline of pollinator populations; adverse effects of three neonicotinoids on bees have led to bans on their use across the European Union. Developing insecticides that pose negligible risks to beneficial organisms such as honeybees is desirable and timely. One strategy is to use recombinant fusion proteins containing neuroactive peptides/proteins linked to a ‘carrier’ protein that confers oral toxicity. Hv1a/GNA (Galanthus nivalis agglutinin), containing an insect-specific spider venom calcium channel blocker (ω-hexatoxin-Hv1a) linked to snowdrop lectin (GNA) as a ‘carrier’, is an effective oral biopesticide towards various insect pests. Effects of Hv1a/GNA towards a non-target species, Apis mellifera, were assessed through a thorough early-tier risk assessment. Following feeding, honeybees internalized Hv1a/GNA, which reached the brain within 1 h after exposure. However, survival was only slightly affected by ingestion (LD50 > 100 µg bee−1) or injection of fusion protein. Bees fed acute (100 µg bee−1) or chronic (0.35 mg ml−1) doses of Hv1a/GNA and trained in an olfactory learning task had similar rates of learning and memory to no-pesticide controls. Larvae were unaffected, being able to degrade Hv1a/GNA. These tests suggest that Hv1a/GNA is unlikely to cause detrimental effects on honeybees, indicating that atracotoxins targeting calcium channels are potential alternatives to conventional pesticides.
doi:10.1098/rspb.2014.0619
PMCID: PMC4071547  PMID: 24898372
insecticidal fusion proteins; biopesticide; honeybees; ω-hexatoxin-Hv1a; snowdrop lectin (Galanthus nivalis agglutinin); pollinator decline
2.  A recombinant fusion protein containing a spider toxin specific for the insect voltage-gated sodium ion channel shows oral toxicity towards insects of different orders 
Recombinant fusion protein technology allows specific insecticidal protein and peptide toxins to display activity in orally-delivered biopesticides. The spider venom peptide δ-amaurobitoxin-PI1a, which targets insect voltage-gated sodium channels, was fused to the “carrier” snowdrop lectin (GNA) to confer oral toxicity.
The toxin itself (PI1a) and an amaurobitoxin/GNA fusion protein (PI1a/GNA) were produced using the yeast Pichia pastoris as expression host. Although both proteins caused mortality when injected into cabbage moth (Mamestra brassicae) larvae, the PI1a/GNA fusion was approximately 6 times as effective as recombinant PI1a on a molar basis. PI1a alone was not orally active against cabbage moth larvae, but a single 30 μg dose of the PI1a/GNA fusion protein caused 100% larval mortality within 6 days when fed to 3rd instar larvae, and caused significant reductions in survival, growth and feeding in 4th – 6th instar larvae. Transport of fusion protein from gut contents to the haemolymph of cabbage moth larvae, and binding to the nerve chord, was shown by Western blotting. The PI1a/GNA fusion protein also caused mortality when delivered orally to dipteran (Musca domestica; housefly) and hemipteran (Acyrthosiphon pisum; pea aphid) insects, making it a promising candidate for development as a biopesticide.
Graphical abstract
Highlights
•The spider toxin Pl1a, specific for the insect sodium channel, was expressed alone and as a fusion with snowdrop lectin (GNA).•Both recombinant toxin and fusion protein were insecticidal to housefly adults and cabbage moth larvae when injected.•Only the fusion protein was orally toxic to housefly adults and cabbage moth larvae.•The fusion protein showed enhanced oral toxicity towards aphids compared to its components.•The Pl1a/GNA fusion protein has promise for development as a biopesticide.
doi:10.1016/j.ibmb.2014.01.007
PMCID: PMC4024200  PMID: 24486516
Neurotoxin; Insecticide; Recombinant protein expression system; Protein transport; Crop protection; Biotechnology
3.  Fusion to Snowdrop Lectin Magnifies the Oral Activity of Insecticidal ω-Hexatoxin-Hv1a Peptide by Enabling Its Delivery to the Central Nervous System 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39389.
Background
The spider-venom peptide ω-hexatoxin-Hv1a (Hv1a) targets insect voltage-gated calcium channels, acting directly at sites within the central nervous system. It is potently insecticidal when injected into a wide variety of insect pests, but it has limited oral toxicity. We examined the ability of snowdrop lectin (GNA), which is capable of traversing the insect gut epithelium, to act as a “carrier” in order to enhance the oral activity of Hv1a.
Methodology/Principal Findings
A synthetic Hv1a/GNA fusion protein was produced by recombinant expression in the yeast Pichia pastoris. When injected into Mamestra brassicae larvae, the insecticidal activity of the Hv1a/GNA fusion protein was similar to that of recombinant Hv1a. However, when proteins were delivered orally via droplet feeding assays, Hv1a/GNA, but not Hv1a alone, caused a significant reduction in growth and survival of fifth stadium Mamestra brassicae (cabbage moth) larvae. Feeding second stadium larvae on leaf discs coated with Hv1a/GNA (0.1–0.2% w/v) caused ≥80% larval mortality within 10 days, whereas leaf discs coated with GNA (0.2% w/v) showed no acute effects. Intact Hv1a/GNA fusion protein was delivered to insect haemolymph following ingestion, as shown by Western blotting. Immunoblotting of nerve chords dissected from larvae following injection of GNA or Hv1a/GNA showed high levels of bound proteins. When insects were injected with, or fed on, fluorescently labelled GNA or HV1a/GNA, fluorescence was detected specifically associated with the central nerve chord.
Conclusions/Significance
In addition to mediating transport of Hv1a across the gut epithelium in lepidopteran larvae, GNA is also capable of delivering Hv1a to sites of action within the insect central nervous system. We propose that fusion to GNA provides a general mechanism for dramatically enhancing the oral activity of insecticidal peptides and proteins.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0039389
PMCID: PMC3382250  PMID: 22761779
4.  Venom of Parasitoid, Pteromalus puparum, Suppresses Host, Pieris rapae, Immune Promotion by Decreasing Host C-Type Lectin Gene Expression 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e26888.
Background
Insect hosts have evolved immunity against invasion by parasitoids, and in co-evolutionary response parasitoids have also developed strategies to overcome host immune systems. The mechanisms through which parasitoid venoms disrupt the promotion of host immunity are still unclear. We report here a new mechanism evolved by parasitoid Pteromalus puparum, whose venom inhibited the promotion of immunity in its host Pieris rapae (cabbage white butterfly).
Methodology/Principal Findings
A full-length cDNA encoding a C-type lectin (Pr-CTL) was isolated from P. rapae. Quantitative PCR and immunoblotting showed that injection of bacterial and inert beads induced expression of Pr-CTL, with peaks of mRNA and Pr-CTL protein levels at 4 and 8 h post beads challenge, respectively. In contrast, parasitoid venom suppressed Pr-CTL expression when co-injected with beads, in a time and dose-dependent manner. Immunolocalization and immunoblotting results showed that Pr-CTL was first detectable in vesicles present in cytoplasm of granulocytes in host hemolymph, and was then secreted from cells into circulatory fluid. Finally, the secreted Pr-CTL bound to cellular membranes of both granulocytes and plasmatocytes. Injection of double-stranded RNA specific for target gene decreased expression of Pr-CTL, and a few other host immune-related genes. Suppression of Pr-CTL expression also down-regulated antimicrobial and phenoloxidase activities, and reducing phagocytotic and encapsulation rates in host. The inhibitory effect of parasitoid venom on host encapsulation is consistent with its effect in suppressing Pr-CTL expression. Binding assay results showed that recombinant Pr-CTL directly attached to the surface of P. puparum egges. We infer that Pr-CTL may serve as an immune signalling co-effector, first binding to parasitoid eggs, regulating expression of a set of immune-related genes and promoting host immunity.
Conclusions/Significance
P. puparum venom inhibits promotion of host immune responses by silencing expression of host C-type lectin gene Pr-CTL, whose expression affected transcription of other host immune-related genes.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0026888
PMCID: PMC3202585  PMID: 22046395
5.  A new chitinase-like xylanase inhibitor protein (XIP) from coffee (Coffea arabica) affects Soybean Asian rust (Phakopsora pachyrhizi) spore germination 
BMC Biotechnology  2011;11:14.
Background
Asian rust (Phakopsora pachyrhizi) is a common disease in Brazilian soybean fields and it is difficult to control. To identify a biochemical candidate with potential to combat this disease, a new chitinase-like xylanase inhibitor protein (XIP) from coffee (Coffea arabica) (CaclXIP) leaves was cloned into the pGAPZα-B vector for expression in Pichia pastoris.
Results
A cDNA encoding a chitinase-like xylanase inhibitor protein (XIP) from coffee (Coffea arabica) (CaclXIP), was isolated from leaves. The amino acid sequence predicts a (β/α)8 topology common to Class III Chitinases (glycoside hydrolase family 18 proteins; GH18), and shares similarity with other GH18 members, although it lacks the glutamic acid residue essential for catalysis, which is replaced by glutamine. CaclXIP was expressed as a recombinant protein in Pichia pastoris. Enzymatic assay showed that purified recombinant CaclXIP had only residual chitinolytic activity. However, it inhibited xylanases from Acrophialophora nainiana by approx. 60% when present at 12:1 (w/w) enzyme:inhibitor ratio. Additionally, CaclXIP at 1.5 μg/μL inhibited the germination of spores of Phakopsora pachyrhizi by 45%.
Conclusions
Our data suggests that CaclXIP belongs to a class of naturally inactive chitinases that have evolved to act in plant cell defence as xylanase inhibitors. Its role on inhibiting germination of fungal spores makes it an eligible candidate gene for the control of Asian rust.
doi:10.1186/1472-6750-11-14
PMCID: PMC3045311  PMID: 21299880
6.  A Developmentally Regulated Chaperone Complex for the Endoplasmic Reticulum of Male Haploid Germ Cells 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2007;18(8):2795-2804.
Glycoprotein folding is mediated by lectin-like chaperones and protein disulfide isomerases (PDIs) in the endoplasmic reticulum. Calnexin and the PDI homologue ERp57 work together to help fold nascent polypeptides with glycans located toward the N-terminus of a protein, whereas PDI and BiP may engage proteins that lack glycans or have sugars toward the C-terminus. In this study, we show that the PDI homologue PDILT is expressed exclusively in postmeiotic male germ cells, in contrast to the ubiquitous expression of many other PDI family members in the testis. PDILT is induced during puberty and represents the first example of a PDI family member under developmental control. We find that PDILT is not active as an oxido-reductase, but interacts with the model peptide Δ-somatostatin and nonnative bovine pancreatic trypsin inhibitor in vitro, indicative of chaperone activity. In vivo, PDILT forms a tissue-specific chaperone complex with the calnexin homologue calmegin. The identification of a redox-inactive chaperone partnership defines a new system of testis-specific protein folding with implications for male fertility.
doi:10.1091/mbc.E07-02-0147
PMCID: PMC1949379  PMID: 17507649
7.  A fusion protein containing a lepidopteran-specific toxin from the South Indian red scorpion (Mesobuthus tamulus) and snowdrop lectin shows oral toxicity to target insects 
BMC Biotechnology  2006;6:18.
Background
Despite evidence suggesting a role in plant defence, the use of plant lectins in crop protection has been hindered by their low and species-specific insecticidal activity. Snowdrop lectin (Galanthus nivalis agglutinin; GNA) is transported to the haemolymph of insects after oral ingestion, and can be used as a basis for novel insecticides. Recombinant proteins containing GNA expressed as a fusion with a peptide or protein, normally only toxic when injected into the insect haemolymph, have the potential to show oral toxicity as a result of GNA-mediated uptake.
Results
A gene encoding a toxin, ButaIT, from the red scorpion (Mesobuthus tamulus) was synthesised and assembled into expression constructs. One construct contained ButaIT alone, whereas the other contained ButaIT fused N-terminally to a GNA polypeptide (ButaIT/GNA). Both recombinant proteins were produced using the yeast Pichia pastoris as an expression host, and purified. Recombinant ButaIT and ButaIT/GNA were acutely toxic when injected into larvae of tomato moth (Lacanobia oleracea), causing slow paralysis, leading to mortality or decreased growth. ButaIT/GNA was chronically toxic when fed to L. oleracea larvae, causing decreased survival and weight gain under conditions where GNA alone was effectively non-toxic. Intact ButaIT/GNA was detected in larval haemolymph from insects fed the fusion protein orally, demonstrating transport of the linked polypeptide across the gut. Proteolysis of the fusion protein was also observed. ButaIT/GNA was significantly more toxic that GNA alone when fed to the homopteran Nilaparvata lugens (rice brown planthopper) in liquid artificial diet.
Conclusion
The ButaIT/GNA recombinant fusion protein is toxic to lepidopteran larvae both when injected and when fed orally, showing the utility of GNA as a carrier to transport potentially toxic peptides and proteins across the insect gut. Although ButaIT has been claimed to be lepidopteran-specific, the fusion protein has more wide-ranging insecticidal activity. Fusion proteins based on plant lectins have potential applications in crop protection, both as exogenously applied treatments and as endogenous products in transgenic plants.
doi:10.1186/1472-6750-6-18
PMCID: PMC1459149  PMID: 16542451

Results 1-7 (7)