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    Gossypol is a toxic sesquiterpene dimer produced by cotton plants which deters herbivory by insects and vertebrates. Two highly reactive aldehyde groups contribute to gossypol toxicity by cross-linking herbivore proteins. We identified another consequence of consuming gossypol in two insect pests of cotton: increased amounts of fatty acid-amino acid conjugates (FACs). Eight different FACs in the feces of larval Helicoverpa armigera and Heliothis virescens increased when larvae consumed artificial diet containing gossypol, but not a gossypol derivative lacking free aldehyde groups (SB-gossypol). FACs are produced by joining plant-derived fatty acids with amino acids of insect origin in the larval midgut tissue by an unknown conjugase, and translocated into the gut lumen by an unknown transporter. FACs are hydrolyzed back into fatty acids and amino acids by an aminoacylase (L-ACY-1) in the gut lumen. The equilibrium level of FACs in the lumen is determined by a balance between conjugation and hydrolysis, which may differ among species. When heterologously expressed, L-ACY-1 of H. armigera but not H. virescens was inhibited by gossypol; consistent with the excretion of more FACs in the feces by H. armigera. FACs are known to benefit the plant host by inducing anti-herbivore defensive responses, and have been hypothesized to benefit the herbivore by acting as a surfactant and increasing nitrogen uptake efficiency. Thus in addition to its direct toxic effects, gossypol may negatively impact insect nitrogen uptake efficiency and amplify the signal used by the plant to elicit release of volatile compounds that attract parasitoids. © 2021 The Authors. Archives of Insect Biochemistry and Physiology published by Wiley Periodicals LLC.


    Corinna Krempl, Nicole Joußen, Michael Reichelt, Marco Kai, Heiko Vogel, David G Heckel. Consumption of gossypol increases fatty acid-amino acid conjugates in the cotton pests Helicoverpa armigera and Heliothis virescens. Archives of insect biochemistry and physiology. 2021 Nov;108(3):e21843

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    PMID: 34490676

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