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J Insect Physiol. 2011 Apr;57(4):462-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jinsphys.2011.01.006. Epub 2011 Jan 20.

Digestive physiology and characterization of digestive cathepsin L-like proteinase from the sugarcane weevil Sphenophorus levis.

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  • 1Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Department of Genetics and Evolution, Federal University of São Carlos, Rodovia Washington Luis Km 235, São Carlos, 13565-905 São Paulo, Brazil.


Sugarcane is an important crop that has recently become subject to attacks from the weevil Sphenophorus levis, which is not efficiently controlled with chemical insecticides. This demands the development of new control devices for which digestive physiology data are needed. In the present study, ion-exchange chromatography of S. levis whole midgut homogenates, together with enzyme assays with natural and synthetic substrates and specific inhibitors, demonstrated that a cysteine proteinase is a major proteinase, trypsin is a minor one and chymotrypsin is probably negligible. Amylase, maltase and the cysteine proteinase occur in the gut contents and decrease throughout the midgut; trypsin is constant in the entire midgut, whereas a membrane-bound aminopeptidase predominates in the posterior midgut. The cysteine proteinase was purified to homogeneity through ion-exchange chromatography. The purified enzyme had a mass of 37 kDa and was able to hydrolyze Z-Phe-Arg-MCA and Z-Leu-Arg-MCA with k(cat)/K(m) values of 20.0±1.1 μM(-1)s(-1) and 30.0±0.5 μM(-1)s(-1), respectively, but not Z-Arg-Arg-MCA. The combined results suggest that protein digestion starts in the anterior midgut under the action of a cathepsin L-like proteinase and ends on the surface of posterior midgut cells. All starch digestion takes place in anterior midgut. These data will be instrumental to developing S. levis-resistant sugarcane.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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