Harmine induced apoptosis in Spodoptera frugiperda Sf9 cells by activating the endogenous apoptotic pathways and inhibiting DNA topoisomerase I activity.
Harmine, a useful botanical compound, has demonstrated insecticidal activity against some pests. However, harmine's mechanism of action has not been thoroughly elucidated to date. To preliminarily explore harmine's insecticidal mechanisms, the cytotoxicity of harmine against Spodoptera frugiperda Sf9 cells was comprehensively investigated. Our results indicated that harmine induced apoptosis in Sf9 cells, as evidenced by cellular and nuclear morphological changes, DNA laddering and increases in caspase-3-like activities. In addition, activation of the mitochondrial apoptotic pathway by harmine was confirmed by the generation of ROS, opening of mitochondrial permeability transition pores (MPTPs), increase in cytosolic Ca2+, changes in mRNA expression levels of genes involved in the mitochondrial apoptotic pathway and increase and release of Cytochrome c. Furthermore, lysosomal membrane permeabilization, release of cathepsin L from the lysosome into the cytosol and cleavage of caspase-3 were also triggered, which indicated that lysosomes were involved in this physiological process. Moreover, the effect of harmine on DNA topoisomerase I activity was investigated by in vivo and molecular docking experiments. These data not only verified that harmine induced apoptosis via comprehensive activation of the mitochondrial and lysosomal pathways and inhibition of DNA topoisomerase I activity in Sf9 cells but also revealed a mechanism of harmine insecticidal functions for pest control.