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Benzoxazinoids (BXDs) are nitrogen-containing plant metabolites present in grasses (Poaceae) that are involved in defense against herbivores. These chemicals are stored in plant cells as non-toxic glucosides and, upon herbivory, are enzymatically converted to toxic, chemically reactive aglucones. However, some insects are able to use BXD-containing plants as food sources with different levels of success, leading to considerable economic losses in maize crops. This host suitability may depend at least partially on the herbivore’s capacity to convert the toxic BXD aglucones into less reactive metabolites, but little is known about the biochemical mechanisms used by these insects to avoid BXD toxicity.

The aim of our project is to investigate the detoxification strategies used by lepidopterans to avoid the toxicity of benzoxazinoids. We intend to characterize resulting metabolites in the insect’s organism, determine different detoxification routes and their importance in vivo, and further study the enzymes involved in BXD detoxification pathways by both molecular biological and classical biochemical approaches.
last updated on 2016-03-07