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Food digestion is vital for the survival and prosperity of insects. Research on insect digestive enzymes yields knowledge of their structure and function, and potential targets of antifeedants to control agricultural pests. While such enzymes from pest species are more relevant for inhibitor screening, a systematic analysis of their counterparts in a model insect has broader impacts. In this context, we identified a set of 122 digestive enzyme genes from the genome of Manduca sexta, a lepidopteran model related to some major agricultural pests. These genes encode hydrolases of proteins (85), lipids (20), carbohydrates (16), and nucleic acids (1). Gut serine proteases (62) and their noncatalytic homologs (11) in the S1A subfamily are encoded by abundant transcripts whose levels correlate well with larval feeding stages. Aminopeptidases (10), carboxypeptidases (10), and other proteases (3) also participate in dietary protein digestion. A large group of 11 lipases as well as 9 esterases are probably responsible for digesting lipids in diets. The repertoire of carbohydrate hydrolases (16) is relatively small, including two amylases, three maltases, two sucrases, two α-glucosidases, and others. Lysozymes, peptidoglycan amidases, and β-1,3-glucanase may hydrolyze peptidoglycans and glucans to harvest energy and defend the host from microbes on plant leaves. One alkaline nuclease is associated with larval feeding, which is likely responsible for hydrolyzing denatured DNA and RNA undergoing autolysis at a high pH of midgut. Proteomic analysis of the ectoperitrophic fluid from feeding larvae validated at least 131 or 89% of the digestive enzymes and their homologs. In summary, this study provides for the first time a holistic view of the digestion-related proteins in a lepidopteran model insect and clues for comparative research in lepidopteran pests and beyond. Copyright © 2020 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Zelong Miao, Xiaolong Cao, Haobo Jiang. Digestion-related proteins in the tobacco hornworm, Manduca sexta. Insect biochemistry and molecular biology. 2020 Nov;126:103457

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PMID: 32860882

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