Pyrokinin beta-Neuropeptide Affects Necrophoretic Behavior in Fire Ants (S. invicta), and Expression of beta-NP in a Mycoinsecticide Increases Its Virulence


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FAN Y., PEREIRA R. M. , Kilic E., CASELLA G., KEYHANI N. O.

PLOS ONE, vol.7, no.1, 2012 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 7 Issue: 1
  • Publication Date: 2012
  • Doi Number: 10.1371/journal.pone.0026924
  • Journal Name: PLOS ONE
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus
  • Erzincan Binali Yildirim University Affiliated: Yes

Abstract

Fire ants are one of the world's most damaging invasive pests, with few means for their effective control. Although ecologically friendly alternatives to chemical pesticides such as the insecticidal fungus Beauveria bassiana have been suggested for the control of fire ant populations, their use has been limited due to the low virulence of the fungus and the length of time it takes to kill its target. We present a means of increasing the virulence of the fungal agent by expressing a fire ant neuropeptide. Expression of the fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) pyrokinin beta -neuropeptide (beta-NP) by B. bassiana increased fungal virulence six-fold towards fire ants, decreased the LT50, but did not affect virulence towards the lepidopteran, Galleria mellonella. Intriguingly, ants killed by the beta-NP expressing fungus were disrupted in the removal of dead colony members, i.e. necrophoretic behavior. Furthermore, synthetic C-terminal amidated beta-NP but not the non-amidated peptide had a dramatic effect on necrophoretic behavior. These data link chemical sensing of a specific peptide to a complex social behavior. Our results also confirm a new approach to insect control in which expression of host molecules in an insect pathogen can by exploited for target specific augmentation of virulence. The minimization of the development of potential insect resistance by our approach is discussed.