Maize toxin degrades peritrophic matrix proteins and stimulates compensatory transcriptome responses in fall armyworm midgut

Howard W. Fescemyer, Germán V. Sandoya, Torrence A. Gill, Seval Ozkan, James H. Marden, Dawn S. Luthe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying insect compensatory responses to plant defenses could lead to improved plant resistance to herbivores. The Mp708 inbred line of maize produces the maize insect resistant 1-cysteine protease (Mir1-CP) toxin. Reduced feeding and growth of fall armyworm larvae fed on Mp708 was previously linked to impairment of nutrient utilization and degradation of the midgut (MG) peritrophic matrix (PM) by Mir1-CP. Here we examine the biochemical and transcriptional responses of fall armyworm larvae to Mir1-CP. Insect Intestinal Mucin (IIM) was severely depleted from pure PMs treated in vitro with recombinant Mir1-CP. Larvae fed on Mp708 midwhorls excrete frass largely depleted of IIM. Cracks, fissures and increased porosity previously observed in the PM of larvae fed on Mp708 midwhorls could ensue when Mir1-CP degrades the IIM that cross-links chitin fibrils in the PM. Both targeted and global transcriptome analyses were performed to determine how complete dissolution of the structure and function of the PM is prevented, enabling larvae to continue growing in the presence of Mir1-CP. The MGs from fall armyworm fed on Mp708 upregulate expression of genes encoding proteins involved in PM production as an apparent compensation to replace the disrupted PM structure and restore appropriate counter-current MG gradients. Also, several families of digestive enzymes (endopeptidases, aminopeptidases, lipases, amylase) were more highly expressed in MGs from larvae fed on Mp708 than MGs from larvae fed on diets lacking Mir1-CP (artificial diet, midwhorls from Tx601 or B73 maize). Impaired growth of larvae fed on Mp708 probably results from metabolic costs associated with higher production of PM constituents and digestive enzymes in a compensatory attempt to maintain MG function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)280-291
Number of pages12
JournalInsect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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