Baculovirus entry into the central nervous system of Spodoptera exigua caterpillars is independent of the viral protein tyrosine phosphatase

Simone N. Gasque*, Yue Han, Iris van der Ham, Dorothy van Leeuwen, Monique M. van Oers, Alexander Haverkamp, Vera I.D. Ros*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Neuroparasitism concerns the hostile take-over of a host’s nervous system by a foreign invader, in order to alter the behaviour of the host in favour of the parasite. One of the most remarkable cases of parasite-induced host behavioural manipulation comprises the changes baculoviruses induce in their caterpillar hosts. Baculoviruses may manipulate caterpillar behaviour in two ways: hyperactivity (increased movement in the horizontal plane) and/or tree-top disease (movement to elevated levels in the vertical plane). Those behavioural changes are followed by liquefaction and death of the caterpillar. In Autographa californica multiple nucleopolyhedrovirus (AcMNPV)-infected Spodoptera exigua caterpillars, an enzymatic active form of the virally encoded protein tyrosine phosphatase (PTP) is needed for the expression of hyperactivity from 3 days post infection (dpi). Using eGFP-expressing recombinant AcMNPV strains, we show that infection of the caterpillar’s central nervous system (CNS) can be observed primarily from 3 dpi onwards. In addition, we demonstrate that the structural and enzymatic function of PTP does not play a role in infection of the CNS. Instead we show that the virus entered the CNS via the trachea, progressing caudally to frontally through the CNS and that the infection progressed from the outermost cell layers towards the inner cell layers of the CNS, in a PTP independent manner. These findings help to further understand parasitic manipulation and the mechanisms by which neuroparasites infect the host nervous system to manipulate host behaviour.

Original languageEnglish
Article number230278
JournalOpen Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 21 Feb 2024


  • Autographa californica multiple nucleopolyhedrovirus
  • central nervous system
  • neuroparasitology
  • parasite-induced behavioural manipulation
  • protein tyrosine phosphatase
  • Spodoptera exigua


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