Meng Q, Q Xu, T Zhu, L Jin, K Fu, W Guo, G Li. PLoS Genetics. 2019;15(1):e1007423. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1007423.

Many animals exploit several niches sequentially during their life cycles, a fitness referred to as ontogenetic niche shift (ONS). To successfully accomplish ONS, transition between development stages is often coupled with changes in one or more primitive, instinctive behaviors. Yet, the underlining molecular mechanisms remain elusive. We show here that Leptinotarsa decemlineata larvae finish their ONS at the wandering stage by leaving the plant and pupating in soil. At middle wandering phase, larvae also switch their phototactic behavior, from photophilic at foraging period to photophobic. We find that enhancement of juvenile hormone (JH) signal delays the phototactic switch, and vise verse. Moreover, RNA interference (RNAi)-aided knockdown of LdPTTH (prothoracicotropic hormone gene) or LdTorso (PTTH receptor gene) impairs avoidance response to light, a phenotype nonrescuable by 20-hydroxyecdysone. Consequently, the RNAi beetles pupate at the soil surface or in shallow layer of soil, with most of them failing to construct pupation chambers. Furthermore, a combination of depletion of LdPTTH/LdTorso and disturbance of JH signal causes no additive effects on light avoidance response and pupation site selection. Finally, we establish that TrpA1 (transient receptor potential (TRP) cation channel) is necessary for light avoidance behavior, acting downstream of PTTH. We conclude that JH/PTTH cascade concomitantly regulates metamorphosis and the phototaxis switch, to drive ONS of the wandering beetles from plant into soil to start the immobile pupal stage.

Yoon J, Mogilicherla K, Gurusamy D, Chen X, Chereddy, S. C. R. R., Palli SR.  Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018;115(33):8334-8339. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1809381115.

RNA interference (RNAi) is being used to develop methods to control pests and disease vectors. RNAi is robust and systemic in coleopteran insects but is quite variable in other insects. The determinants of efficient RNAi in coleopterans, as well as its potential mechanisms of resistance, are not known. RNAi screen identified a double-stranded RNA binding protein (StaufenC) as a major player in RNAi. StaufenC homologs have been identified in only coleopteran insects. Experiments in two coleopteran insects, Leptinotarsa decemlineata and Tribolium castaneum, showed the requirement of StaufenC for RNAi, especially for processing of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) to small interfering RNA. RNAi-resistant cells were selected by exposing L. decemlineata, Lepd-SL1 cells to the inhibitor of apoptosis 1 dsRNA for multiple generations. The resistant cells showed lower levels of StaufenC expression compared with its expression in susceptible cells. These studies showed that coleopteran-specific StaufenC is required for RNAi and is a potential target for RNAi resistance. The data included in this article will help improve RNAi in noncoleopteran insects and manage RNAi resistance in coleopteran insects.

Rasoolizadeh, A. M.-C. Goulet, J.-F. Guay, C. Cloutier, D. Michaud. Journal of Insect Physiology, Online First. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jinsphys.2017.03.001

Herbivorous insects use complex protease complements to process plant proteins, useful to adjust their digestive functions to the plant diet and to elude the antidigestive effects of dietary protease inhibitors. We here assessed whether basic profiles and diet-related adjustments of the midgut protease complement may vary among populations of the insect herbivore Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata). Two laboratory colonies of this insect were used as models, derived from insect samples collected in potato fields ∼1200 km distant from each other in North America. Synchronized 4th-instar larvae reared on potato were kept on this plant, or switched to tomato or eggplant, to compare their midgut cathepsin activities and content of intestain Cys proteases under different diet regimes. Cathepsin D activity, cathepsin L activity, cathepsin B activity and total intestain content shortly after larval molting on potato leaves were about two times lower in one population compared to the other. By comparison, cathepsin D activity, cathepsin B activity, total intestain content and relative abundance of the most prominent intestain families were similar in the two populations after three days regardless of the plant diet, unlike cathepsin L activity and less prominent intestain families showing population-associated variability. Variation in Cys protease profiles translated into the differential efficiency of a Cys protease inhibitor, tomato cystatin SlCYS8, to inhibit cathepsin L activity in midgut extracts of the two insect groups. Despite quantitative differences, SlCYS8 single variants engineered to strongly inhibit Cys proteases showed improved potency against cathepsin L activity of either population. These data suggest the feasibility of designing cystatins to control L. decemlineata that are effective against different populations of this insect. They underline, on the other hand, the practical relevance of considering natural variability of the protease complement among L. decemlineata target populations, eventually determinant in the success or failure of cystatin-based control strategies on a large-scale basis.

Kalsi, M. and S. R. Palli. 2017. Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 83: 1-12. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ibmb.2017.02.002

Colorado potato beetle (CPB), Leptinotarsa decemlineata is a notorious pest of potato. Co-evolution with Solanaceae plants containing high levels of toxins (glycoalkaloids) helped this insect to develop an efficient detoxification system and resist almost every chemical insecticide introduced for its control. Even though the cross-resistance between plant allelochemicals and insecticides is well acknowledged, the underlying molecular mechanisms are not understood. Here, we investigated the molecular mechanisms involved in detoxification of potato plant allelochemicals and imidacloprid resistance in the field-collected CPB. Our results showed that the imidacloprid-resistant beetles employ metabolic detoxification of both potato plant allelochemicals and imidacloprid by upregulation of common cytochrome P450 genes. RNAi aided knockdown identified four cytochromes P450 genes (CYP6BJa/b, CYP6BJ1v1, CYP9Z25, and CYP9Z29) that are required for defense against both natural and synthetic chemicals. These P450 genes are regulated by the xenobiotic transcription factors Cap n Collar C, CncC and muscle aponeurosis fibromatosis, Maf. Studies on the CYP9Z25 promoter using the luciferase reporter assay identified two binding sites (i.e. GCAGAAT and GTACTGA) for CncC and Maf. Overall, these data showed that CPB employs the metabolic resistance mediated through xenobiotic transcription factors CncC and Maf to regulate multiple P450 genes and detoxify both imidacloprid and potato plant allelochemicals.

Spit, J., A. Philips, N. Wynant, D. Santos, G. Plaetinck, J. Vanden Broeck.  Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 81: 103-116, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ibmb.2017.01.004

The responsiveness towards orally delivered dsRNA and the potency of a subsequent environmental RNA interference (RNAi) response strongly differs between different insect species. While some species are very sensitive to dsRNA delivery through the diet, others are not. The underlying reasons for this may vary, but degradation of dsRNA by nucleases in the gut lumen is believed to play a crucial role. The Colorado potato beetle, Leptinotarsa decemlineata, is a voracious defoliator of potato crops worldwide, and is currently under investigation for novel control methods based on dsRNA treatments. Here we describe the identification and characterization of two nuclease genes exclusively expressed in the gut of this pest species. Removal of nuclease activity in adults increased the sensitivity towards dsRNA and resulted in improved protection of potato plants. A similar strategy in the desert locust, Schistocerca gregaria, for which we show a far more potent nuclease activity in the gut juice, did however not lead to an improvement of the RNAi response. Possible reasons for this are discussed. Taken together, the present data confirm a negative effect of nucleases in the gut on the environmental RNAi response, and further suggest that interfering with this activity is a strategy worth pursuing for improving RNAi efficacy in insect pest control applications.