Analytical and bioanalytical chemistry

Metabolomics reveals insect metabolic responses associated with fungal infection.

PMID 25895944


The interactions between insects and pathogenic fungi are complex. We employed metabolomic techniques to profile insect metabolic dynamics upon infection by the pathogenic fungus Beauveria bassiana. Silkworm larvae were infected with fungal spores and microscopic observations demonstrated that the exhaustion of insect hemocytes was coupled with fungal propagation in the insect body cavity. Metabolomic analyses revealed that fungal infection could significantly alter insect energy and nutrient metabolisms as well as the immune defense responses, including the upregulation of carbohydrates, amino acids, fatty acids, and lipids, but the downregulation of eicosanoids and amines. The insect antifeedant effect of the fungal infection was evident with the reduced level of maclurin (a component of mulberry leaves) in infected insects but elevated accumulations in control insects. Insecticidal and cytotoxic mycotoxins like oosporein and beauveriolides were also detected in insects at the later stages of infection. Taken together, the metabolomics data suggest that insect immune responses are energy-cost reactions and the strategies of nutrient deprivation, inhibition of host immune responses, and toxin production would be jointly employed by the fungus to kill insects. The data obtained in this study will facilitate future functional studies of genes and pathways associated with insect-fungus interactions.