Discovery of Potential Species-Specific Green Insecticides Targeting the Lepidopteran Ryanodine Receptor

Arthur Samurkas, Xiaona Fan, Dan Ma, Rajamanikandan Sundarraj, Lianyun Lin, Li Yao, Ruifang Ma, Heng Jiang, Peng Cao, Qingzhi Gao, Zhiguang Yuchi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Ryanodine receptors (RyRs) are homotetrameric intracellular calcium (Ca2+) release channels responsible for excitation-contraction coupling of muscle cells. Diamide insecticides specifically act on RyRs of Lepidoptera and Coleoptera pests and are safe for nontargeted organisms, generating big worldwide sales. Despite their popularity, several devastating agricultural pests have been reported to be resistant to them because of mutations in a small transmembrane region of their RyRs, hinting a binding pocket nearby. A potential solution to overcome resistance is to develop new insecticides targeting different binding sites in pest RyRs. Based on a high-resolution crystal structure of diamondback moth (DBM) RyR N-terminal domain (NTD) determined by our group, we carried out extensive structure-based insecticide screening targeting the intersubunit interface. We identified eight lead compounds that selectively target the open conformation of DBM RyR, which are predicted to act as channel activators similar to diamide insecticides. Binding mode analysis shows selective binding to a hydrophobic pocket of DBM NTD-A but not to the pocket of its mammalian counterpart. We tested three available compounds on the HEK293 cell lines stably expressing DBM or mammalian RyR, one of which shows good potency and selectivity against DBM RyR. The insecticidal effect of the compound was also confirmed using fruit flies. The detailed binding mode, toxicity, absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion, and reactivity of the compound were predicted by bioinformatic methods. Together, our study lays a foundation for developing a new class of selective RyR-targeting insecticides to control both wild-type and resistant pests.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4528-4537
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2020


  • diamondback moth
  • insecticides
  • N-terminal domain
  • pharmacophore
  • ryanodine receptor
  • structure-based virtual screening


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