Phytocystatins: Defense Proteins against Phytophagous Insects and Acari

Int J Mol Sci. 2016 Oct 20;17(10):1747. doi: 10.3390/ijms17101747.


This review deals with phytocystatins, focussing on their potential role as defence proteins against phytophagous arthropods. Information about the evolutionary, molecular and biochemical features and inhibitory properties of phytocystatins are presented. Cystatin ability to inhibit heterologous cysteine protease activities is commented on as well as some approaches of tailoring cystatin specificity to enhance their defence function towards pests. A general landscape on the digestive proteases of phytophagous insects and acari and the remarkable plasticity of their digestive physiology after feeding on cystatins are highlighted. Biotechnological approaches to produce recombinant cystatins to be added to artificial diets or to be sprayed as insecticide-acaricide compounds and the of use cystatins as transgenes are discussed. Multiple examples and applications are included to end with some conclusions and future perspectives.

Keywords: acari; digestive proteases; insect; phytocystatin; plant-phytophagous interactions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cystatins / pharmacology*
  • Insecta / drug effects*
  • Mites / drug effects*
  • Peptide Hydrolases / metabolism
  • Phytochemicals / pharmacology*
  • Protease Inhibitors / pharmacology*


  • Cystatins
  • Phytochemicals
  • Protease Inhibitors
  • Peptide Hydrolases