Molecular basis of Colorado potato beetle adaptation to potato plant defence at the level of digestive cysteine proteinases

K. Gruden, A.G.J. Kuipers, G. Guncar, N. Slapar, B. Strukelj, M.A. Jongsma

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    Potato synthesises high levels of proteinase inhibitors in response to insect attack. This can adversely affect protein digestion in the insects, leading to reduced growth, delayed development and lowered fecundity. Colorado potato beetle overcomes this defence mechanism by changing the composition of its digestive proteinases. The induced cysteine proteinases in the adapted gut sustain a normal rate of protein hydrolysis either by inactivating the inhibitors by cleavage or by insensitivity to the inhibitors as a result of high K(i)s. In this Study cDNA clones of cysteine proteinases in adapted guts were isolated by nested PCR on the basis of N-terminal sequences previously determined for purified enzymes (Gruden et al., 2003). The cysteine proteinase cDNAs call be classified into three groups: intestains A, B and C. The amino acid identity is more than 91% within and 35-62%, between the groups. They share 43-50% identity to mammalian cathepsins S, L, K, H, J and cathepsin-like enzymes from different arthropods. Homology modelling predicts that intestains A, B and C follow the general fold of papain-like proteinases. Intestains from each group, however, differ in some specific structural characteristics in the S1 and S2 binding sites that could influence enzyme-inhibitor interaction and thus, provide different mechanisms of resistance to inhibitors for the different enzymes. Gene expression analysis revealed that the intestains A and C, but not B, are induced twofold by potato plants with high levels of proteinase inhibitors. (C) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)365-375
    JournalInsect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2004


    • crystal-structure
    • sequence alignment
    • inhibitors
    • larvae
    • proteases
    • papain
    • specificity
    • expression
    • mechanism
    • complex


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