Crystallization of α- and β-carotene in the foregut of Spodoptera larvae feeding on a toxic food plant

Yongqi Shao, Dieter Spiteller, Xiaoshu Tang, Liyan Ping*, Claudia Colesie, Ute Münchberg, Stefan Bartram, Bernd Schneider, Burkhard Büdel, Jürgen Popp, David G. Heckel, Wilhelm Boland

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In the animal kingdom, carotenoids are usually absorbed from dietary sources and transported to target tissues. Despite their general importance, the uptake mechanism is still poorly understood. Here we report the " red crop" phenomenon, an accumulation of α- and β-carotene in crystalline inclusions in the enlarged foregut of the polyphagous Spodoptera larvae feeding on some potentially toxic plant leaves. The carotene crystals give the insect foregut a distinctive orange-red color. The crystals are embedded in a homogenous lawn of the bacterium Enterococcus casseliflavus, but the carotene seems to be selectively taken from the food plant. Caterpillars which fail to develop these carotene crystals exhibit a high mortality or fail to develop to adulthood. The crystallization of carotene and the enlargement of the foregut thus appears to manifest a multiple-step physiological adaptation of the insects to toxic food plants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-281
Number of pages9
JournalInsect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Volume41
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2011

Keywords

  • Biocrystallization
  • Carotenoids
  • Enterococci
  • Foregut
  • Spodoptera

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