Protective action of midgut catalase in lepidopteran larvae against oxidative plant defenses

Gary W. Felton, Sean S. Duffey

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Catalase activity was detected in the midgut tissues and regurgitate of several lepidopteran pests of the tomato plant. Greatest activity in the midgut was detected in larval Helicoverpa zea, followed by Spodoptera exigua, Manduca sexta, and Heliothis virescens. We present evidence that catalase, in addition to removing toxic hydrogen peroxide, may inhibit the oxidation of plant phenolics mediated by plant peroxidases. Small amounts of larval regurgitate significantly inhibited foliar peroxidase activity via removal of hydrogen peroxide. Treatment of foliage with purified catalase nearly eliminated peroxidase activity and was superior as a larval food source compared to untreated foliage. Tomato foliar peroxidases oxidize an array of endogenous compounds including caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, rutin, coumaric acid, cinnamic acid, and guaiacol. The oxidized forms of these compounds are potent alkylators of dietary and/or cellular nucleophiles (e.g., thiol and amino functions of proteins, peptides, and amines). When tomato foliar protein was pretreated with peroxidase and chlorogenic acid and incorporated in artificial diet, larval growth was reduced compared to larvae fed untreated protein. Thus, the diminution of peroxidase activity and removal of hydrogen peroxide by catalase may represent an important adaptation to leaf-feeding. The secretion of catalase in salivary fluid during insect feeding is also suggested to be a potential mechanism for reducing hydrogen peroxide formation as an elicitor of inducible plant defenses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1715-1732
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Chemical Ecology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 1991

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biochemistry


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