Background: The evolution of insecticide resistance in Spodoptera frugiperda (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) has resulted in large economic losses and disturbances to the environment and agroecosystems. Resistance to lufenuron, a chitin biosynthesis inhibitor insecticide, was recently documented in Brazilian populations of S. frugiperda. Thus, we utilized large-scale cDNA sequencing (RNA-Seq analysis) to compare the pattern of gene expression between lufenuron-resistant (LUF-R) and susceptible (LUF-S) S. larvae in an attempt to identify the molecular basis behind the resistance mechanism(s) of S. frugiperda to this insecticide.
Results: A transcriptome was assembled using approximately 19.6 million 100 bp-long single-end reads, which generated 18,506 transcripts with a N50 of 996 bp. A search against the NCBI non-redundant database generated 51.1% (9,457) functionally annotated transcripts. A large portion of the alignments were homologous to insects, with the majority (45%) being similar to sequences of Bombyx mori (Lepidoptera: Bombycidae). Moreover, 10% of the alignments were similar to sequences of various species of Spodoptera (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae), with 3% of them being similar to sequences of S. frugiperda. A comparative analysis of the gene expression between LUF-R and LUF-S S. frugiperda larvae identified 940 differentially expressed transcripts (p ≤ 0.05, t-test; fold change ≥ 4). Six of them were associated with cuticle metabolism. Of those, four were overexpressed in LUF-R larvae. The machinery involved with the detoxification process was represented by 35 differentially expressed transcripts; 24 of them belonging to P450 monooxygenases, four to glutathione-S-transferases, six to carboxylases and one to sulfotransferases. RNA-Seq analysis was validated for a number of selected candidate transcripts by using quantitative real time PCR (qPCR).
Conclusions: The gene expression profile of LUF-R larvae of S. frugiperda differs from LUF-S larvae. In general, gene expression is much higher in resistant larvae when compared to the susceptible ones, particularly for those genes involved with pathways for xenobiotic detoxification, mainly represented by P450 monooxygenases transcripts. Our data indicate that enzymes involved with the detoxification process, and mostly the P450, are one of the resistance mechanisms employed by the LUF-R S. frugiperda larvae against lufenuron.