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Molecular Ecology, Physiology and Biochemistry of Insects, 4th Edition

A special issue of International Journal of Molecular Sciences (ISSN 1422-0067). This special issue belongs to the section "Biochemistry".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 August 2024 | Viewed by 6472

Special Issue Editor

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Of all the zoological classes, insects are the most numerous in species and the most varied in structure. Estimates of the number of species vary from 1 to 10 million, and 1018 individuals are estimated to be alive at any given moment. Insects are relatively ancient and have survived more or less unchanged in their basic winged form for the last 300 million years. Due to their adaptability in behavior, physiology, and biochemistry to changing environmental conditions, insects have successfully colonized habitats stretching from arid deserts to the Arctic and Antarctic and from freshwater brooks to hot springs and saline marine environments.

Knowledge of the physiology and biochemistry of insects developed extensively at the end of the 20th century. The reasons for this increased interest in insect physiology and biochemistry were that insects can be useful as model systems for experimental studies of principles, but also as economic models. Mechanisms of environmental adaptation in growth and development, energy metabolism, or respiration to temperature, oxygen tension, food supply, or salt concentrations were the focus of interest. It was the time of “Physiological Ecology”.

About 30 years later, the omics era gives us the opportunity to gain deeper insight into the different aspects of insect physiology and environmental adaptation, for example, by silencing or overexpressing candidate genes of interest. A major challenge in current entomology is to integrate different levels of organization, from cellular mechanisms to functions in ecosystems. The rapid development of molecular techniques for studying the physiological functions of genes will revolutionize the entomology not only of so-called model organisms like Drosophila, but in general. When we understand how physiological processes are regulated and at what time, we will be able to manipulate them, thereby providing new attractive opportunities for practical applications, for example, in an ecologically friendly insect pest control.

We invite you to contribute original research articles and critical reviews on both basic and applied approaches in insect molecular biology. Articles on the molecular mechanisms of insect–plant interactions, and systems of insect communication in general, are also welcome.

Prof. Dr. Klaus H. Hoffmann
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • insect development and reproduction
  • molecular endocrinology/neuropeptides
  • insect immunity
  • photoperiodism
  • cold hardiness
  • global climate change
  • insect aging
  • insect–plant interactions
  • molecular interactions of insects with microorganisms
  • chemical communication
  • biochemistry of insect venoms
  • insect genomics and proteomics
  • genetic engineering molecular
  • volution/population genetics
  • insect biotechnology

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

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15 pages, 3035 KiB  
Article
Antenna-Biased Odorant Receptor PstrOR17 Mediates Attraction of Phyllotreta striolata to (S)-Cis-Verbenol and (−)-Verbenone
by Zhanyi Xu, Peitong Chen, Ru Yan, Guoxing Chen, Jiali Qian, Guonian Zhu, Mengli Chen and Yirong Guo
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2024, 25(8), 4362; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms25084362 - 15 Apr 2024
Viewed by 280
Abstract
Phyllotreta striolata, the striped flea beetle, is one of the most destructive pests in Brassicaceae plants worldwide. Given the drawbacks associated with long-term use of chemical insecticides, green strategies based on chemical ecology are an effective alternative for beetle control. However, the [...] Read more.
Phyllotreta striolata, the striped flea beetle, is one of the most destructive pests in Brassicaceae plants worldwide. Given the drawbacks associated with long-term use of chemical insecticides, green strategies based on chemical ecology are an effective alternative for beetle control. However, the lack of information on beetle ecology has hindered the development of effective biocontrol strategies. In this report, we identified two odorants, (S)-cis-verbenol and (−)-verbenone, which displayed significant attraction for P. striolata (p < 0.05), indicating their great potential for P. striolata management. Using the Drosophila “empty neuron” system, an antenna-biased odorant receptor, PstrOR17, was identified as responsible for the detection of (−)-verbenone and (S)-cis-verbenol. Furthermore, the interactions between PstrOR17 and (−)-verbenone or (S)-cis-verbenol were predicted via modeling and molecular docking. Finally, we used RNAi to confirm that PstrOR17 is essential for the detection of (−)-verbenone and (S)-cis-verbenol to elicit an attraction effect. Our results not only lay a foundation for the development of new and effective nonchemical insecticide strategies based on (S)-cis-verbenol and (−)-verbenone, but also provide new insight into the molecular basis of odorant recognition in P. striolata. Full article
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11 pages, 2845 KiB  
Article
Microbial Community Changes in Silkworms Suspected of Septicemia and Identification of Serratia sp.
by Jong Woo Park, Seul Ki Park, Chan Young Jeong, Hyeok Gyu Kwon, Ji Hae Lee, Sang Kuk Kang, Seong-Wan Kim and Seong-Ryul Kim
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2024, 25(7), 3957; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms25073957 - 02 Apr 2024
Viewed by 461
Abstract
Diseases that occur in silkworms include soft rot, hardening disease, digestive diseases, and sepsis. However, research on the causes of bacterial diseases occurring in silkworms and the resulting changes in the microbial community is lacking. Therefore, we examined the morphological characteristics of sepsis [...] Read more.
Diseases that occur in silkworms include soft rot, hardening disease, digestive diseases, and sepsis. However, research on the causes of bacterial diseases occurring in silkworms and the resulting changes in the microbial community is lacking. Therefore, we examined the morphological characteristics of sepsis and changes in the microbial community between silkworms that exhibit a unique odor and healthy silkworms; thus, we established a relationship between disease-causing microorganisms and sepsis. After producing a 16S rRNA amplicon library for samples showing sepsis, we obtained information on the microbial community present in silkworms using next-generation sequencing. Compared to that in healthy silkworms, in silkworms with sepsis, the abundance of the Firmicutes phylum was significantly reduced, while that of Proteobacteria was increased. Serratia sp. was dominant in silkworms with sepsis. After bacterial isolation, identification, and reinfection through the oral cavity, we confirmed this organism as the disease-causing agent; its mortality rate was 1.8 times higher than that caused by Serratia marcescens. In summary, we identified a new causative bacterium of silkworm sepsis through microbial community analysis and confirmed that the microbial community balance was disrupted by the aberrant proliferation of certain bacteria. Full article
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14 pages, 2414 KiB  
Article
Roles of DNA Methylation in Color Alternation of Eastern Honey Bees (Apis cerana) Induced by the Royal Jelly of Western Honey Bees (Apis mellifera)
by Amal Abdelmawla, Xin Li, Wenkai Shi, Yunlin Zheng, Zhijiang Zeng and Xujiang He
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2024, 25(6), 3368; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms25063368 - 16 Mar 2024
Viewed by 672
Abstract
Honey bees have a very interesting phenomenon where the larval diets of two different honey bee species are exchanged, resulting in altered phenotypes, namely, a honey bee nutritional crossbreed. This is a classical epigenetic process, but its underlying mechanisms remain unclear. This study [...] Read more.
Honey bees have a very interesting phenomenon where the larval diets of two different honey bee species are exchanged, resulting in altered phenotypes, namely, a honey bee nutritional crossbreed. This is a classical epigenetic process, but its underlying mechanisms remain unclear. This study aims to investigate the contribution of DNA methylation to the phenotypic alternation of a Apis mellifera–Apis cerana nutritional crossbreed. We used a full nutritional crossbreed technique to rear A. cerana queens by feeding their larvae with A. mellifera royal-jelly-based diets in an incubator. Subsequently, we compared genome-wide methylation sequencing, body color, GC ratio, and the DMRs between the nutritional crossbreed, A. cerana queens (NQs), and control, A. cerana queens (CQs). Our results showed that the NQ’s body color shifted to yellow compared to the black control queens. Genome methylation sequencing revealed that NQs had a much higher ratio of mCG than that of CQs. A total of 1020 DMGs were identified, of which 20 DMGs were enriched into key pathways for melanin synthesis, including tryptophan, tyrosine, dopamine, and phenylalanine KEGG pathways. Three key differentially methylated genes [OGDH, ALDH(NAD+) and ALDH7] showed a clear, altered DNA methylation in multiple CpG islands in NQs compared to CQs. Consequently, these findings revealed that DNA methylation participates in A. cerana–A. mellifera nutritional crossbreeding as an important epigenetic modification. This study serves as a model of cross-kingdom epigenetic mechanisms in insect body color induced by environmental factors. Full article
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24 pages, 5281 KiB  
Article
Prolonged Heat Stress during Winter Diapause Alters the Expression of Stress-Response Genes in Ostrinia nubilalis (Hbn.)
by Iva Uzelac, Miloš Avramov, Teodora Knežić, Vanja Tatić, Snežana Gošić-Dondo and Željko D. Popović
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2024, 25(6), 3100; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms25063100 - 07 Mar 2024
Viewed by 584
Abstract
During diapause, a state of temporarily arrested development, insects require low winter temperatures to suppress their metabolism, conserve energy stores and acquire cold hardiness. A warmer winter could, thus, reduce diapause incidence and duration in many species, prematurely deplete their energy reserves and [...] Read more.
During diapause, a state of temporarily arrested development, insects require low winter temperatures to suppress their metabolism, conserve energy stores and acquire cold hardiness. A warmer winter could, thus, reduce diapause incidence and duration in many species, prematurely deplete their energy reserves and compromise post-diapause fitness. In this study, we investigated the combined effects of thermal stress and the diapause program on the expression of selected genes involved in antioxidant defense and heat shock response in the European corn borer Ostrinia nubilalis. By using qRT-PCR, it has been shown that response to chronic heat stress is characterized by raised mRNA levels of grx and trx, two important genes of the antioxidant defense system, as well as of hsp70 and, somewhat, of hsp90, two major heat shock response proteins. On the other hand, the expression of hsc70, hsp20.4 and hsp20.1 was discontinuous in the latter part of diapause, or was strongly controlled by the diapause program and refractory to heat stress, as was the case for mtn and fer, genes encoding two metal storage proteins crucial for metal ion homeostasis. This is the first time that the effects of high winter temperatures have been assessed on cold-hardy diapausing larvae and pupae of this important corn pest. Full article
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19 pages, 21492 KiB  
Article
Developmental and Nutritional Dynamics of Malpighian Tubule Autofluorescence in the Asian Tiger Mosquito Aedes albopictus
by Anna Cleta Croce, Anna Garbelli, Andrea Moyano, Sara Soldano, Carlos Tejeda-Guzmán, Fanis Missirlis and Francesca Scolari
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2024, 25(1), 245; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms25010245 - 23 Dec 2023
Viewed by 735
Abstract
Malpighian tubules (MTs) are arthropod excretory organs crucial for the osmoregulation, detoxification and excretion of xenobiotics and metabolic wastes, which include tryptophan degradation products along the kynurenine (KYN) pathway. Specifically, the toxic intermediate 3-hydroxy kynurenine (3-HK) is metabolized through transamination to xanthurenic acid [...] Read more.
Malpighian tubules (MTs) are arthropod excretory organs crucial for the osmoregulation, detoxification and excretion of xenobiotics and metabolic wastes, which include tryptophan degradation products along the kynurenine (KYN) pathway. Specifically, the toxic intermediate 3-hydroxy kynurenine (3-HK) is metabolized through transamination to xanthurenic acid or in the synthesis of ommochrome pigments. Early investigations in Drosophila larval fat bodies revealed an intracellular autofluorescence (AF) that depended on tryptophan administration. Subsequent observations documented AF changes in the MTs of Drosophila eye-color mutants genetically affecting the conversion of tryptophan to KYN or 3-HK and the intracellular availability of zinc ions. In the present study, the AF properties of the MTs in the Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, were characterized in different stages of the insect’s life cycle, tryptophan-administered larvae and blood-fed adult females. Confocal imaging and microspectroscopy showed AF changes in the distribution of intracellular, brilliant granules and in the emission spectral shape and amplitude between the proximal and distal segments of MTs across the different samples. The findings suggest AF can serve as a promising marker for investigating the functional status of MTs in response to metabolic alterations, contributing to the use of MTs as a potential research model in biomedicine. Full article
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14 pages, 3496 KiB  
Article
Identification and Functional Analysis of an Epsilon Class Glutathione S-Transferase Gene Associated with α-Pinene Adaptation in Monochamus alternatus
by Mingyu Xue, Xiaohong Xia, Yadi Deng, Fei Teng, Shiyue Zhao, Hui Li, Dejun Hao and Wei-Yi Chen
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2023, 24(24), 17376; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms242417376 - 12 Dec 2023
Viewed by 624
Abstract
Alpha-pinene is one of the main defensive components in conifers. Monochamus alternatus (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae), a wood borer feeding on Pinaceae plants, relies on its detoxifying enzymes to resist the defensive terpenoids. Here, we assayed the peroxide level and GST activity of M. alternatus [...] Read more.
Alpha-pinene is one of the main defensive components in conifers. Monochamus alternatus (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae), a wood borer feeding on Pinaceae plants, relies on its detoxifying enzymes to resist the defensive terpenoids. Here, we assayed the peroxide level and GST activity of M. alternatus larvae treated with different concentrations of α-pinene. Meanwhile, a gst gene (MaGSTe3) was isolated and analyzed. We determined its expression level and verified its function. The results showed that α-pinene treatment led to membrane lipid peroxidation and thus increased the GST activity. Expression of MaGSTe3 was significantly upregulated in guts following exposure to α-pinene, which has a similar pattern with the malonaldehyde level. In vitro expression and disk diffusion assay showed that the MaGSTe3 protein had high antioxidant capacity. However, RNAi treatment of MaGSTe3 did not reduce the hydrogen peroxide and malonaldehyde levels, while GST activity was significantly reduced. These results suggested MaGSTe3 takes part in α-pinene adaptation, but it does not play a great role in the resistance of M. alternatus larvae to α-pinene. Full article
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16 pages, 8962 KiB  
Article
Untargeted Lipidomics Analysis Unravels the Different Metabolites in the Fat Body of Mated Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) Queens
by Yueqin Guo, Fugang Liu, Yulong Guo, Yingping Qu, Zhengyi Zhang, Jun Yao, Jin Xu and Jilian Li
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2023, 24(20), 15408; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms242015408 - 21 Oct 2023
Viewed by 868
Abstract
The fat body has important functions in energy, fertility, and immunity. In female insects, mating stimulates physiological, behavioral, and gene expression changes. However, it remains unclear whether the metabolites in the fat body are affected after the bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) queen [...] Read more.
The fat body has important functions in energy, fertility, and immunity. In female insects, mating stimulates physiological, behavioral, and gene expression changes. However, it remains unclear whether the metabolites in the fat body are affected after the bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) queen mates. Here, the ultrastructure and lipid metabolites in fat body of mated queens were compared with those of virgins. The fat body weight of mated bumblebee queens was significantly increased, and the adipocytes were filled with lipid droplets. Using LC-MS/MS-based untargeted lipidomics, 949 and 748 differential metabolites were identified in the fat body of virgin and mated bumblebee queens, respectively, in positive and negative ion modes. Most lipid metabolites were decreased, especially some biomembrane components. In order to explore the relationship between the structures of lipid droplets and metabolite accumulation, transmission electron microscopy and fluorescence microscopy were used to observe the fat body ultrastructure. The size/area of lipid droplets was larger, and the fusion of lipid droplets was increased in the mated queen’s fat body. These enlarged lipid droplets may store more energy and nutrients. The observed differences in lipid metabolites in the fat body of queens contribute to understanding the regulatory network of bumblebees post mating. Full article
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Review

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27 pages, 976 KiB  
Review
Notch Signaling in Insect Development: A Simple Pathway with Diverse Functions
by Yao Chen, Haomiao Li, Tian-Ci Yi, Jie Shen and Junzheng Zhang
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2023, 24(18), 14028; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms241814028 - 13 Sep 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1365
Abstract
Notch signaling is an evolutionarily conserved pathway which functions between adjacent cells to establish their distinct identities. Despite operating in a simple mechanism, Notch signaling plays remarkably diverse roles in development to regulate cell fate determination, organ growth and tissue patterning. While initially [...] Read more.
Notch signaling is an evolutionarily conserved pathway which functions between adjacent cells to establish their distinct identities. Despite operating in a simple mechanism, Notch signaling plays remarkably diverse roles in development to regulate cell fate determination, organ growth and tissue patterning. While initially discovered and characterized in the model insect Drosophila melanogaster, recent studies across various insect species have revealed the broad involvement of Notch signaling in shaping insect tissues. This review focuses on providing a comprehensive picture regarding the roles of the Notch pathway in insect development. The roles of Notch in the formation and patterning of the insect embryo, wing, leg, ovary and several specific structures, as well as in physiological responses, are summarized. These results are discussed within the developmental context, aiming to deepen our understanding of the diversified functions of the Notch signaling pathway in different insect species. Full article
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