Action of antioxidant enzymes and cytochrome P‐450 monooxygenases in the cabbage looper in response to plant phototoxins

Keywan Lee, May R. Berenbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Effects of two biosynthetically distinct plant phototoxins—xanthototoxin, a furanocoumarin, and harmine, a β‐carboline alkaloid, which are known to produce toxic oxygen species—on the food utilization efficiencies and enzymatic detoxification systems of the polyphagous cabbage looper. Trichoplusia ni (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae), were studied. Newly molted fifth‐instar larvae were allowed 36 h to ingest diets containing these two phototoxins at 0.15% wet weight in the presence of near ultraviolet (UVA). The growth and development of the larvae, as well as the corresponding activities of the antioxidant enzymes superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), glutathione peroxidase (GPOX), and glutathione reductase (GR) and the detoxification enzyme cytochrome P‐450, were measured. Xanthotoxin reduced rates of relative growth and consumption and efficiencies of conversion of ingested and digested food to biomass. Harmine reduced rates of growth and consumption without affecting efficiencies of conversion. Specific activities of SOD, CAT, GPOX, and GR of whole‐body homogenates in the absence of compounds were 0.88 units, 153μmol H2O2 decomposed·mg protein−1·min—1, 38.3 nmol NADPH oxidized·mg protein−1·min−1, and 0.56 nmol NADPH oxidized·mg protein−1·min−1, respectively. SOD activity was induced 2.9‐fold and 3.8‐fold by dietary xanthotoxin and harmine, respectively. CAT and GPOX activities were induced 1.2‐fold by harmine only, and GR activity was not changed by either chemical. The P‐450 activity toward xanthotoxin in the microsomal fraction of midguts was low (0.15 nmol xanthotoxin metabolized·mg protein−1·min−1) and was not induced by xanthotoxin ingestion. These studies indicate that P‐450 and antioxidant enzyme systems may be independent but consequential, the induction of antioxidant enzymes by phototoxins occurring when low P‐450 activity toward the phototoxin permits the accumulation of oxidative stress from unmetabolized phototoxin, which in turn induces antioxidant enzymes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)151-162
Number of pages12
JournalArchives of Insect Biochemistry and Physiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1989


  • catalase
  • detoxification
  • glutathione peroxidase
  • glutathione reductase
  • induction
  • superoxide dismutase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Insect Science


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