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Binding of the insecticidal lectin Concanavalin A in pea aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum (Harris) and induced effects on the structure of midgut epithelial cells

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Angharad MR GatehouseORCiD


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Concanavalin A (lectin from Canavalia ensiformis L., ConA) has previously been shown to act as a feeding inhibitor for Acyrthosiphon pisum, the pea aphid. In the present study a range of histochemical and biochemical techniques were used to elucidate the target tissues and binding sites of the lectin in the aphid. Diet uptake was evaluated using a radioactive tracer ( 14C-methylated inulin) and demonstrated that adults were capable of ingesting high quantities of the toxin (approx. 1 μg over a 48 h period). Electophoretic analysis and enzyme-linked immuno-sorbent assay of honeydew samples confirmed these results and further demonstrated that only small levels of ConA were excreted. Histofluorescence and immunolocalisation studies on nymphs revealed that the stomach was the primary target for ConA. At concentrations up to 400 μg ml-1, lectin binding only occurred in the stomach region, however, at high concentrations (800 μg ml-1) the whole digestive tract was stained, although there was no evidence of binding in either the oesophagus or rectum. In addition to binding, there was evidence to suggest that ConA was also causing systemic effects in that the lectin appeared to cross the intestinal epithelial barrier. Immunohistochemical and electron microscopy studies revealed that ConA induced severe cellular swelling of the epithelial cells, accompanied by hypersecretion and a progressive detachment of the apical membrane; however, the striated border itself did not appear to be directly affected. Furthermore, there was no lysis of the epithelium, nor loss of integrity of the epithelial cells themselves. Our results suggest that ConA interacts with glycosylated receptors at the surface of the stomach epithetial cells, interfering with normal metabolism and cell function, resulting in a rapid feedback response on feeding behaviour. Whilst our results provide a much greater understanding regarding the modes of action of ConA in insects, they suggest that different lectins, including other mannose binding lectins, have different modes of action at the cellular levels, and thus generalizations should be treated with caution. © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Sauvion N, Nardon C, Febvay G, Gatehouse AMR, Rahbe Y

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Insect Physiology

Year: 2004

Volume: 50

Issue: 12

Pages: 1137-1150

ISSN (print): 0022-1910

ISSN (electronic): 1879-1611

Publisher: Pergamon


DOI: 10.1016/j.jinsphys.2004.10.006

PubMed id: 15670861


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