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Insect Biochem Mol Biol. 2007 Dec;37(12):1348-58. Epub 2007 Sep 12.

Differential effects of sugar-mimic alkaloids in mulberry latex on sugar metabolism and disaccharidases of Eri and domesticated silkworms: enzymatic adaptation of Bombyx mori to mulberry defense.

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National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8634, Japan.


Mulberry leaves (Morus spp.) exude latex rich in sugar-mimic alkaloids, 1,4-dideoxy-1,4-imino-d-arabinitol (d-AB1) and 1-deoxynojirimycin (DNJ), as a defense against herbivorous insects. Sugar-mimic alkaloids are inhibitors of sugar-metabolizing enzymes, and are toxic to the Eri silkworm, Samia ricini, a generalist herbivore, but not at all to the domesticated silkworm, Bombyx mori, a mulberry specialist. To address the phenomena, we fed both larvae diets containing different sugar sources (sucrose, glucose or none) with or without sugar-mimic alkaloids from mulberry latex. In S. ricini, addition of sugar-mimic alkaloids to the sucrose (the major sugar in mulberry leaves) diet reduced both growth and the absorption ratio of sugar, but it reduced neither in B. mori. The midgut soluble sucrase activity of S. ricini was low and inhibited by very low concentrations of sugar-mimic alkaloids (IC(50)=0.9-8.2microM), but that of B. mori was high and not inhibited even by very high concentrations (IC(50)>1000microM) of sugar-mimic alkaloids. In S. ricini, the addition of sugar-mimic alkaloids to the glucose diet still had considerable negative effects on growth, although it did not reduce the absorption ratio of glucose. The hemolymph of S. ricini fed sugar-mimic alkaloids contained sugar-mimic alkaloids. The trehalose concentration in the hemolymph increased significantly in S. ricini fed sugar-mimic alkaloids, but not in B. mori. The trehalase activities of S. ricini were lower and inhibited by lower concentrations of sugar-mimic alkaloids than those of B. mori. These results suggest that sugar-mimic alkaloids in mulberry latex exert toxicity to S. ricini larvae first by inhibiting midgut sucrase and digestion of sucrose, and secondly, after being absorbed into hemolymph, by inhibiting trehalase and utilization of trehalose, the major blood sugar. Further, our results reveal that B. mori larvae evolved enzymatic adaptation to mulberry defense by developing sucrase and trehalase that are insensitive to sugar-mimic alkaloids.

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