Estimating disease resistance in insects: phenoloxidase and lysozyme-like activity and disease resistance in the cricket Gryllus texensis

J Insect Physiol. Feb-Mar 2004;50(2-3):209-16. doi: 10.1016/j.jinsphys.2003.11.011.


An animal's ability to resist disease is usually estimated by measuring one or more components of the immune system. There is an assumption that these assays of immunity measure an animal's ability to mount an effective immune response. This paper tests this assumption by examining the relationship between two common estimates of insect immunocompetence, phenoloxidase and lysozyme-like enzyme activity, and resistance to three common insect bacterial pathogens: Serratia marcescens, Serratia liquefaciens, and Bacillus cereus. There was a correlation (Spearman's rs=0.33, p<0.001, n=190 pairs) between total phenoloxidase and baseline lysozyme-like activity within individuals. However, total phenoloxidase and baseline lysozyme-like activity levels did not predict which male crickets would survive any of the three bacterial challenges. Lysozyme-like activity increased after an immune challenge (Friedman, 33.72, p<0.001), and the greater the increase, the greater the chance that the cricket would survive S. marcescens (slope=0.15, chi 2=8.2, p=0.005) or B. cereus (slope=0.8, chi 2=6.4, p=0.01). The crickets with a greater total hemolymph protein concentration were also more likely to survive a challenge with any of the three bacterial pathogens than the crickets with lower total hemolymph protein concentrations (S. liquefaciens: slope=0.02, chi 2=9.2, p=0.002; B. cereus: slope=0.02, chi 2=6.5, p=0.01; S. marcescens: slope=0.03, chi 2=7.8, p=0.005). Because of the complexity of the immune system, empirical tests of the relationship between assays of immunity and resistance to a range of actual pathogens are important for correctly interpreting these measures.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacillus cereus / pathogenicity
  • Bacterial Infections / immunology*
  • Gryllidae / enzymology
  • Gryllidae / immunology*
  • Gryllidae / microbiology
  • Hemolymph / enzymology
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology*
  • Immunocompetence / immunology
  • Male
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase / blood*
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase / immunology
  • Muramidase / blood*
  • Muramidase / immunology
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Serratia liquefaciens / pathogenicity
  • Serratia marcescens / pathogenicity


  • Monophenol Monooxygenase
  • Muramidase