Biochemistry, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of Insect Physiology46 (2000) 1481–1487.


Nodulation, which begins with the formation of cellular microaggregates, is the predominant cellular defense reaction to bacterial infections in insects. We suggested that these reactions to bacterial infections are mediated by eicosanoids. The lipopolysaccharide (LPS) component of some bacterial cells stimulates defense reactions in mammals and insects. Here, we report on experiments designed to test the hypothesis that eicosanoids mediate microaggregation reactions to LPS. Injections of LPS (purified from the bacterium, Serratia marcescens) into larvae of the tenebrionid beetle, Zophobas atratus, stimulated microaggregation reactions in a dose-dependent manner. Treatments with eicosanoid-biosynthesis inhibitors immediately prior to LPS challenge sharply reduced the microaggregation responses. Separate treatments with specific inhibitors of phospholipase A2, cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase reduced microaggregation, supporting our view that microaggregate formation involves lipoxygenase and cyclooxygenase products. The inhibitory influence of dexamethasone was apparent within 30 min after injection, and microaggregation was significantly reduced, relative to control insects, over the following 90 min. The dexamethasone effects were reversed by treating LPS-injected insects with the eicosanoid precursor, arachidonic acid. These findings indicate that cellular defense reactions to a specific component of bacterial cells are mediated by eicosanoids, and open up new possibilities for dissecting detailed hemocytic actions in insect immune reactions to bacterial infections.