Transcriptome differential co-expression reveals distinct molecular response of fall-armyworm strains to DIMBOA.
BACKGROUND: 2,4-dihydroxy-7-methoxy-1,4-benzoxazin-3-one (DIMBOA), the main benzoxazinoid found in corn, elicits variable larval responses from different pest moths. For the widespread and highly polyphagous Spodoptera frugiperda (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae), the fall-armyworm (FAW), DIMBOA acts as a feeding stimulant and improves larval growth at low concentrations. The FAW present two host plant-related strains, corn and rice strains, related to host preference on corn and other Graminae or rice. Based on both host preference and strain divergence of the FAW on corn, a cereal containing DIMBOA, and rice, lacking this compound, we question if corn and rice strains larvae respond equally toward DIMBOA. We evaluated differential expression in the transcriptome of both midgut and fat body larval tissues of the two strains reared on either DIMBOA-enriched artificial diet or control diet and inferred Bayesian networks. RESULTS: We found differences in performance between corn and rice strain larvae reared on DIMBOA, as well as several differentially regulated contigs annotated as esterases, peptidases, transferases and reductases, all of them known for being related to responses of lepidopterans and other insects to DIMBOA. We also found a UDP-glucuronosyltransferase very similar to others found in many lepidopterans occupying a central hub within a transferase Bayesian network, suggesting that it is essential to an effective response to DIMBOA in FAW. CONCLUSION: Our results suggest that there is an intrinsic cost for FAW rice strain larvae to metabolize corn-originated hydroxamic acids, which could have resulted in the partial host-associated genetic isolation found at FAW field populations.