Insect gene expression responds to diet

May 7, 2009

Cabbage looper caterpillars (Trichoplusia ni) are able to alter the expression of genes associated with metabolism, homeostasis and immunity in response to feeding on plants carrying bacteria. Research published in BioMed Central's open access journal Frontiers in Zoology has shown that, as well as tailoring gene expression within their own digestive systems, the insects are able to pass this information along to their offspring.

Dalial Freitak worked with a team of researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology to study the effects of dietary bacteria on general in the plant pest. She said, "Larval feeding on a bacteria-rich diet leads to substantial gene expression changes, potentially resulting in a reorganization of the insects' metabolism to maintain organismal , not only in the larval but also in the adult stage."

The authors believe that having a suite of genes capable of responding to dietary composition allows the cabbage looper to fine-tune its natural defenses. Freitak said, "Mounting an is costly and dangerous. The fact the insects can up regulate immunity related genes like Gloverin, HDD1 and hemolin in response to the presence of bacteria, but leave them switched off in the absence of pathogens, minimizes the release of multiple potentially cytotoxic molecules, which could in turn activate other stress related defenses".

The researchers also found that the eggs of parents fed on a bacterial diet showed different gene expression patterns to eggs from parents who had sterile food. They conclude, "If expression differences in eggs carry over into the larvae that develop from them, this would support the idea that parents are able to prime their offspring against possible environmental stressors, like increased microbial exposure".

More information: Bacterial feeding induces changes in immune-related gene expression and has trans-generational impacts in the cabbage looper (Trichoplusia ni), Dalial Freitak, David G Heckel and Heiko Vogel
Frontiers in Zoology (in press), www.frontiersinzoology.com/

Source: BioMed Central (news : web)

Explore further: Gene expression becomes heterogeneous with age in humans and rats

Related Stories

Insect gut detects unhealthy meal

December 21, 2007

Plant leaves and surfaces are teeming with microbial life, yet the insects that feed on plants lack adaptive immune systems to fend off any intruding microorganisms they eat along with their greens. Now research published ...

Pregnant mothers' diet linked to baby's obesity

April 4, 2008

Pregnant and lactating rats fed on a diet of hydrogenated fat during pregnancy and lactation had babies who were fatter than rats fed a normal diet, according to research published in Lipids in Health and Disease. The unhealthy ...

Mouse ovaries and testes age in unique ways

June 3, 2008

Aging leads to large changes in gene activity in the ovaries of mice, but only limited changes in testes, according to research published in the open-access journal, BMC Biology. A lifespan-extending calorie-restricted diet ...

Conserved gene expression reveals our 'inner fish'

April 16, 2009

A study of gene expression in chickens, frogs, pufferfish, mice and people has revealed surprising similarities in several key tissues. Researchers writing in BioMed Central's open access Journal of Biology have shown that ...

Recommended for you

Some vaccines support evolution of more-virulent viruses

July 27, 2015

Scientific experiments with the herpesvirus such as the one that causes Marek's disease in poultry have confirmed, for the first time, the highly controversial theory that some vaccines could allow more-virulent versions ...

Mammoths killed by abrupt climate change

July 23, 2015

New research has revealed abrupt warming, that closely resembles the rapid man-made warming occurring today, has repeatedly played a key role in mass extinction events of large animals, the megafauna, in Earth's past.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.