Effects of the biosynthesis and signaling pathway of ecdysterone on silkworm (Bombyx mori) following exposure to titanium dioxide nanoparticles

J Chem Ecol. 2014 Aug;40(8):913-22. doi: 10.1007/s10886-014-0487-0. Epub 2014 Aug 20.


Silkworm (Bombyx mori), a model Lepidoptera insect, is economically important. Its growth and development are regulated by endogenous hormones. During the process of transition from larvae to pupae, 20-hydroxyecdysone (20E) plays an important role. The recent surge in consumer products and applications using metallic nanoparticles has increased the possibility of human or ecosystem exposure due to their unintentional release into the environment. We investigated the effects of exposure to titanium dioxide nanoparticles (TiO2 NPs) on the action of 20E in B. mori. Titanium dioxide nanoparticle treatment shortened the molting duration by 8 hr and prolonged the molting peak period by 10 %. Solexa sequencing profiled the changes in gene expression in the brain of fifth-instar B. mori in response to TiO2NPS exposure for 72 hr, to address the effects on hormone metabolism and regulation. Thirty one genes were differentially expressed. The transcriptional levels of pi3k and P70S6K, which are involved in the target of the rapamycin (TOR) signaling pathway, were up-regulated. Transcriptional levels of four cytochrome P450 genes, which are involved in 20E biosynthesis, at different developmental stages (48, 96, 144, and 192 hr) at 5th instars of all displayed trends of increasing expression. Simultaneously, the ecdysterone receptors, also displayed increasing trends. The 20E titers at four developmental stages during the 5th instar were 1.26, 1.23, 1.72, and 2.16 fold higher, respectively, than the control group. These results indicate that feeding B. mori with TiO2 NPs stimulates 20E biosynthesis, shortens the developmental progression, and reduces the duration of molting. Thus, application of TiO2 NPs is of high significance for saving the labor force in sericulture, and our research provides a reference for the ecological problems in the field of Lepidoptera exposured to titanium dioxide nanoparticles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture
  • Animals
  • Bombyx / drug effects*
  • Bombyx / growth & development
  • Bombyx / physiology*
  • Ecdysterone / biosynthesis
  • Ecdysterone / metabolism*
  • Larva / drug effects
  • Larva / growth & development
  • Larva / physiology
  • Metal Nanoparticles / toxicity*
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Silk
  • Titanium / toxicity*


  • Silk
  • titanium dioxide
  • Ecdysterone
  • Titanium