Display Settings:


Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Oct 1;99(20):13319-23. Epub 2002 Sep 16.

Insect feeding mobilizes a unique plant defense protease that disrupts the peritrophic matrix of caterpillars.

Author information

  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS 39762, USA.


Plants frequently respond to herbivorous insect attack by synthesizing defense proteins that deter insect feeding and prevent additional herbivory. Maize (Zea mays L.) lines, resistant to feeding by a number of lepidopteran species, rapidly mobilize a unique 33-kDa cysteine protease in response to caterpillar feeding. The accumulation of the 33-kDa cysteine protease in the maize mid-whorl was correlated with a significant reduction in caterpillar growth that resulted from impaired nutrient utilization. Black Mexican Sweetcorn callus transformed with mir1, the gene encoding the 33-kDa cysteine protease, expressed the protease and growth of caterpillars reared on the transgenic callus was reduced 60-80%. Scanning electron microscopy was used to examine the effect of plant material expressing the 33-kDa cysteine protease on the structure of the caterpillar peritrophic matrix. Because the peritrophic matrix surrounds the food bolus, assists in digestive processes, and protects the caterpillar midgut from physical and chemical damage, disruption of peritrophic matrix may reduce caterpillar growth. The results indicated that the peritrophic matrix was severely damaged when caterpillars fed on resistant maize plants or transgenic Black Mexican Sweetcorn. The accumulation of the 33-kDa cysteine protease in response to caterpillar feeding, and its ability to damage the insect peritrophic matrix, represents an unusual host-plant resistance mechanism that may have applications in agricultural biotechnology.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk