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IUBMB Life. 2007 Mar;59(3):151-62.

DDT, pyrethrins, pyrethroids and insect sodium channels.

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Biological Chemistry Division, Rothamsted Research, Hertfordshire, UK.


The long term use of many insecticides is continually threatened by the ability of insects to evolve resistance mechanisms that render the chemicals ineffective. Such resistance poses a serious threat to insect pest control both in the UK and worldwide. Resistance may result from either an increase in the ability of the insect to detoxify the insecticide or by changes in the target protein with which the insecticide interacts. DDT, the pyrethrins and the synthetic pyrethroids (the latter currently accounting for around 17% of the world insecticide market), act on the voltage-gated sodium channel proteins found in insect nerve cell membranes. The correct functioning of these channels is essential for normal transmission of nerve impulses and this process is disrupted by binding of the insecticides, leading to paralysis and eventual death. Some insect pest populations have evolved modifications of the sodium channel protein which prevent the binding of the insecticide and result in the insect developing resistance. Here we review some of the work (done at Rothamsted Research and elsewhere) that has led to the identification of specific residues on the sodium channel that may constitute the DDT and pyrethroid binding sites.

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