U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Date of this Version



Published in Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 30 (2000) 1181–1188.


Proteolytic activities in alfalfa weevil (Hypera postica) larval midguts have been characterized. Effects of pH, thiol activators, low-molecular weight inhibitors, and proteinase inhibitors (PIs) on general substrate hydrolysis by midgut extracts were determined. Hemoglobinolytic activity was highest in the acidic to mildly acidic pH range, but was maximal at pH 3.5. Addition of thiolactivators dithiothreitol (DTT), 2-mercaptoethanol (2-ME), or l-cysteine had little effect on hemoglobin hydrolysis at pH 3.5, but enhanced azocaseinolytic activity two to three-fold at pH 5.0. The broad cysteine PI E-64 reduced azocaseinolytic activity by 64% or 42% at pH 5 in the presence or absence of 5 mM l-cysteine, respectively. Inhibition by diazomethyl ketones, Z-Phe–Phe–CHN2 and Z-Phe–Ala–CHN2, suggest that cathepsins L and B are present and comprise approximately 70% and 30% of the cysteine proteolytic activity, respectively. An aspartyl proteinase component was identified using pepstatin A, which inhibited 32% (pH 3.5, hemoglobin) and 50% (pH 5, azocasein) of total proteolytic activity. This activity was completely inhibited by an aspartyl proteinase inhibitor from potato (API), and is consistent with the action of a cathepsin D-like enzyme. Hence, genes encoding PIs with specificity toward cathepsins L, B and D could potentially be effective for control of alfalfa weevil using transgenic plants.