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J Microbiol Biotechnol. 2011 Mar;21(3):317-22.

Bacterial metabolites of an entomopathogenic bacterium, Xenorhabdus nematophila, inhibit a catalytic activity of phenoloxidase of the diamondback moth, Plutella xylostella.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556, USA.


A monoterpenoid compound, benzylideneacetone (BZA), is identified from bacterial metabolites synthesized by an entomopathogenic bacterium, Xenorhabdus nematophila. It inhibits phospholipase A2 of target insects to shut down biosynthesis of various eicosanoids, which play significant roles in insect immunity. This study discovered another novel activity of BZA that directly inhibited phenoloxidase (PO) activity required for immune-associated melanization. When it was injected into larvae of Plutella xylostella, it suppressed PO activity in the plasma by inhibiting its activation from inactive proPO. However, BZA did not influence on gene expression of PO, which was analyzed by RT-PCR using gene-specific primers designed from a partial cDNA sequence of PO of the P. xylostella identified in this study. To test a direct inhibitory activity of BZA against PO, the activated PO of P. xylostella was prepared from the hemolymph collected from the larvae challenged by bacteria. When the activated PO was incubated in vitro with BZA, it was inhibited in a dose-dependent manner. The inhibition of PO by BZA was recovered by addition of increasing amounts of substrate, L-3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine. Three other known bacterial metabolites containing a benzene propane core structure synthesized by X. nematophila also inhibited the PO enzyme activity. However, modification of the core structure by hydroxylation of BZA lost its strong inhibitory activity against the activated PO.

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