Discovery of Potential Species-Specific Green Insecticides Targeting the Lepidopteran Ryanodine Receptor

J Agric Food Chem. 2020 Apr 15;68(15):4528-4537. doi: 10.1021/acs.jafc.0c01063. Epub 2020 Apr 1.


Ryanodine receptors (RyRs) are homotetrameric intracellular calcium (Ca2+) release channels responsible for excitation-contraction coupling of muscle cells. Diamide insecticides specifically act on RyRs of Lepidoptera and Coleoptera pests and are safe for nontargeted organisms, generating big worldwide sales. Despite their popularity, several devastating agricultural pests have been reported to be resistant to them because of mutations in a small transmembrane region of their RyRs, hinting a binding pocket nearby. A potential solution to overcome resistance is to develop new insecticides targeting different binding sites in pest RyRs. Based on a high-resolution crystal structure of diamondback moth (DBM) RyR N-terminal domain (NTD) determined by our group, we carried out extensive structure-based insecticide screening targeting the intersubunit interface. We identified eight lead compounds that selectively target the open conformation of DBM RyR, which are predicted to act as channel activators similar to diamide insecticides. Binding mode analysis shows selective binding to a hydrophobic pocket of DBM NTD-A but not to the pocket of its mammalian counterpart. We tested three available compounds on the HEK293 cell lines stably expressing DBM or mammalian RyR, one of which shows good potency and selectivity against DBM RyR. The insecticidal effect of the compound was also confirmed using fruit flies. The detailed binding mode, toxicity, absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion, and reactivity of the compound were predicted by bioinformatic methods. Together, our study lays a foundation for developing a new class of selective RyR-targeting insecticides to control both wild-type and resistant pests.

Keywords: N-terminal domain; diamondback moth; insecticides; pharmacophore; ryanodine receptor; structure-based virtual screening.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Calcium Channel Agonists / chemistry
  • Calcium Channel Agonists / pharmacology*
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Insect Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Insect Proteins / genetics
  • Insect Proteins / metabolism
  • Insecticides / chemistry
  • Insecticides / pharmacology*
  • Moths / chemistry
  • Moths / drug effects*
  • Moths / genetics
  • Moths / metabolism
  • Protein Domains
  • Ryanodine Receptor Calcium Release Channel / chemistry
  • Ryanodine Receptor Calcium Release Channel / metabolism
  • Species Specificity


  • Calcium Channel Agonists
  • Insect Proteins
  • Insecticides
  • Ryanodine Receptor Calcium Release Channel