Genomic adaptation to polyphagy and insecticides in a major East Asian noctuid pest

Tingcai Cheng, Jiaqi Wu, Yuqian Wu, Rajendra V. Chilukuri, Lihua Huang, Kohji Yamamoto, Li Feng, Wanshun Li, Zhiwei Chen, Huizhen Guo, Jianqiu Liu, Shenglong Li, Xiaoxiao Wang, Li Peng, Duolian Liu, Youbing Guo, Bohua Fu, Zhiqing Li, Chun Liu, Yuhui ChenArchana Tomar, Frederique Hilliou, Nicolas Montagné, Emmanuelle Jacquin-Joly, Emmanuelle D'Alençon, Rakesh K. Seth, Raj K. Bhatnagar, Akiya Jouraku, Takahiro Shiotsuki, Keiko Kadono-Okuda, Amornrat Promboon, Guy Smagghe, Kallare P. Arunkumar, Hirohisa Kishino, Marian R. Goldsmith, Qili Feng, Qingyou Xia, Kazuei Mita

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

233 Citations (Scopus)


The tobacco cutworm, Spodoptera litura, is among the most widespread and destructive agricultural pests, feeding on over 100 crops throughout tropical and subtropical Asia. By genome sequencing, physical mapping and transcriptome analysis, we found that the gene families encoding receptors for bitter or toxic substances and detoxification enzymes, such as cytochrome P450, carboxylesterase and glutathione-S-transferase, were massively expanded in this polyphagous species, enabling its extraordinary ability to detect and detoxify many plant secondary compounds. Larval exposure to insecticidal toxins induced expression of detoxification genes, and knockdown of representative genes using short interfering RNA (siRNA) reduced larval survival, consistent with their contribution to the insect's natural pesticide tolerance. A population genetics study indicated that this species expanded throughout southeast Asia by migrating along a South India-South China-Japan axis, adapting to wide-ranging ecological conditions with diverse host plants and insecticides, surviving and adapting with the aid of its expanded detoxification systems. The findings of this study will enable the development of new pest management strategies for the control of major agricultural pests such as S. litura.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1747-1756
Number of pages10
JournalNature Ecology and Evolution
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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