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Glucosinolates are major plant defense compounds in the order Brassicales (e.g. broccoli, rape, mustard). Upon tissue damage caused by chewing herbivores, these non-toxic compounds are transformed into highly toxic isothiocyanates (ITCs) and other metabolites. Still, generalist herbivores feed successfully on Brassiceae.
Previous studies in our group revealed that a proportion of ITCs is excreted as a glutathione conjugate; yet, a large amount of ITCs is still excreted unmodified. Those free toxins lead to negative growth effects, delayed development and sometimes death. Our results suggest that ITCs, although relatively non-polar, do not cross the membranes of the cells lining the surface of the digestive tract to permeate the insect's body. However, the physical or biochemical mechanisms underlying this protection are not known.

The aim of the project is to determine how the Lepidotera larvae stop ITCs from entering their body and the main factors involved in this process. The biological targets of ITCs will also be identified in order to understand the effects of these compounds in the insect's metabolism.
Using a proteomics approach, we are investigating the identity and localization of potential protein targets of ITCs in the caterpillar's gut tissue. Additionally, we will study changes in the insect's chemistry and physiology.
last updated on 2013-03-18