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Dev Comp Immunol. 2008;32(5):585-95. Epub 2007 Oct 16.

Beetle immunity: Identification of immune-inducible genes from the model insect Tribolium castaneum.

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Institute of Phytopathology and Applied Zoology, Justus-Liebig-University of Giessen, Heinrich-Buff-Ring 26-32, D-35392 Giessen, Germany.


The red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum, is an established genetically tractable model insect for evolutionary and developmental studies. Therefore, it may also represent a valuable model for comparative analysis of insect immunity. Here, we used the suppression subtractive hybridization method to identify Tribolium genes that are transcriptionally induced in response to injection of crude lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Determined genes encode proteins that share sequence similarities with counterparts from other insects known to mediate sensing of infection (e.g. Toll and PGRP) or to represent potential antimicrobial effectors (e.g. ferritin, c-type lysozyme, serine proteinase inhibitors, and defensins). Especially significant is the identification of thaumatin-like peptides, representing ancient antifungal peptides originally reported from plants, that are absent from the genomes of many other insects such as Drosophila, Anopheles, and Apis. We produced recombinant thaumatin-1 in bacteria and we found that it represents an antimicrobial peptide against filamentous fungi in Tribolium. Additionally, septic injury induces expression of genes involved in stress adaptation (e.g. heat-shock proteins) or insecticide resistance (e.g. cytochrome P450s) in Tribolium, suggesting that there may be crosstalk between the immune and stress responses.

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