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PLoS One. 2018 Oct 4;13(10):e0204935. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0204935. eCollection 2018.

Application of insulin signaling to predict insect growth rate in Maruca vitrata (Lepidoptera: Crambidae).

Author information

Department of Plant Medicals, Andong National University, Andong, Korea.
Division of Crop Cultivation and Environment Research, Department of Central Area Crop Science, National Institute of Crop Science, Rural Development Administration, Suwon, Korea.
Department of Southern Area Crop Science, National Institute of Crop Science, Rural Development Administration, Miryang, Korea.
Research Institute of Climate Change and Agriculture, National Institute of Horticultural and Herbal Science, Rural Development Administration, Jeju, Korea.
College of Plant Protection, Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University, Fuzhou, Fujian Province, People's Republic of China.


Insect growth is influenced by two major environmental factors: temperature and nutrient. These environmental factors are internally mediated by insulin/insulin-like growth factor signal (IIS) to coordinate tissue or organ growth. Maruca vitrata, a subtropical lepidopteran insect, migrates to different climate regions and feeds on various crops. The objective of this study was to determine molecular tools to predict growth rate of M. vitrata using IIS components. Four genes [insulin receptor (InR), Forkhead Box O (FOXO), Target of Rapamycin (TOR), and serine-threonine protein kinase (Akt)] were used to correlate their expression levels with larval growth rates under different environmental conditions. The functional association of IIS and larval growth was confirmed because RNA interference of these genes significantly decreased larval growth rate and pupal weight. Different rearing temperatures altered expression levels of these four IIS genes and changed their growth rate. Different nutrient conditions also significantly changed larval growth and altered expression levels of IIS components. Different local populations of M. vitrata exhibited significantly different larval growth rates under the same nutrient and temperature conditions along with different expression levels of IIS components. Under a constant temperature (25°C), larval growth rates showed significant correlations with IIS gene expression levels. Subsequent regression formulas of expression levels of four IIS components against larval growth rate were applied to predict growth patterns of M. vitrata larvae reared on different natural hosts and natural local populations reared on the same diet. All four formulas well predicted larval growth rates with some deviations. These results indicate that the IIS expression analysis explains the growth variation at the same temperature due to nutrient and genetic background.

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