Growth-inhibition effects of pacifastin-like peptides on a pest insect: The desert locust,Schistocerca gregaria

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The main reason for the varying degrees of success of peptidase inhibitors (PI) as biological insecticides is the existence of a poorly understood mechanism, which allows pest insects to compensate for PI present in their diet. To challenge this highly flexible physiological mechanism and to prolong the inhibitory effect of PI on insect growth, a number of measures were taken into account before and during experiments with a notorious pest insect, the desert locust, Schistocerca gregaria: (i) non-plant PI (pacifastin-related inhibitors) were used to reduce the risk of a specific co-evolutionary adaptation of the pest insect, (ii) based on the main types of digestive enzymes present in the midgut, mixtures of multiple PI with different enzyme specificity were selected, allowing for a maximal inhibition of the proteolytic activity and (iii) digestive peptidase samples were taken during oral administration experiments to study compensatory mechanisms. Contrary to larvae fed on a diet containing plant-derived PI, a significant growth impediment was observed in larvae that were fed a mixture of different pacifastin-like PI. Nevertheless, the growth inhibition effect of this PI mixture attenuated after a few days, Moreover, a comprehensive study of the observed responses after oral administration of PI revealed that S. gregaria larvae can adjust their secreted digestive enzyme activities in two distinct ways depending on the composition/concentration of the PI-mixture.

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