Spider venoms are usually toxic when injected into prey, but a new protein discovered in the venom of Australian tarantulas can also kill prey insects that consume the venom orally. The protein is strongly insecticidal to the cotton bollworm, an important agricultural pest, according to research published September 11 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Glenn King and Maggie Hardy from the Institute of Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland, Australia, and colleagues from other institutions.
The small protein, named orally active insecticidal peptide-1 (OAIP-1), was found to be highly toxic to insects that consumed it, with potency similar to that of the synthetic insecticide imidacloprid. Cotton bollworm, a pest that attacks crop plants, was more sensitive to OAIP-1 than termites and mealworms, which attack stored grains.
These and other insect pests reduce global crop yields by 10-14% annually and damage 9-20% of stored food crops, and several species are resistant to available insecticides. Isolated peptides from the venom of spiders or other venomous insectivorous animals, such as centipedes and scorpions, may have the potential to serve as bioinsecticides. Alternately, the authors suggest the genes encoding these peptides could be used to engineer insect-resistant plants or enhance the efficacy of microbes that attack insect pests. King elaborates, "The breakthrough discovery that spider toxins can have oral activity has implications not only for their use as bioinsecticides, but also for spider-venom peptides that are being considered for therapeutic use."
Citation: Hardy MC, Daly NL, Mobli M, Morales RAV, King GF (2013) Isolation of an Orally Active Insecticidal Toxin from the Venom of an Australian Tarantula. PLoS ONE 8(9): e73136. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0073136
Financial Disclosure: The authors acknowledge financial support from the Australian Research Council (Discovery Grant DP0774245 to G.F.K.). M.C.H. was supported by a University of Queensland Research Scholarship and an Australian Government International Postgraduate Research Scholarship. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Competing Interest Statement: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
Disclaimer: This press release refers to upcoming articles in PLOS ONE. The releases have been provided by the article authors and/or journal staff. Any opinions expressed in these are the personal views of the contributors, and do not necessarily represent the views or policies of PLOS. PLOS expressly disclaims any and all warranties and liability in connection with the information found in the release and article and your use of such information.
About PLOS ONE: PLOS ONE is the first journal of primary research from all areas of science to employ a combination of peer review and post-publication rating and commenting, to maximize the impact of every report it publishes. PLOS ONE is published by the Public Library of Science (PLOS), the open-access publisher whose goal is to make the world's scientific and medical literature a public resource.
All works published in PLOS ONE are Open Access. Everything is immediately availableŚto read, download, redistribute, include in databases and otherwise useŚwithout cost to anyone, anywhere, subject only to the condition that the original authors and source are properly attributed. For more information about PLOS ONE relevant to journalists, bloggers and press officers, including details of our press release process and our embargo policy, see the everyONE blog at http://everyone.plos.org/media.
AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert! system.