Sulfoxaflor - A sulfoximine insecticide: Review and analysis of mode of action, resistance and cross-resistance

Pestic Biochem Physiol. 2021 Oct;178:104924. doi: 10.1016/j.pestbp.2021.104924. Epub 2021 Jul 15.


The sulfoximines, as exemplified by sulfoxaflor (Isoclast™active), are a relatively new class of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) competitive modulator (Insecticide Resistance Action Committee [IRAC] Group 4C) insecticides that provide control of a wide range of sap-feeding insect pests. The sulfoximine chemistry and sulfoxaflor exhibits distinct interactions with metabolic enzymes and nAChRs compared to other IRAC Group 4 insecticides such as the neonicotinoids (Group 4A). These distinctions translate to notable differences in the frequency and degree of cross-resistance between sulfoxaflor and other insecticides. Most insect strains exhibiting resistance to a variety of insecticides, including neonicotinoids, exhibited little to no cross-resistance to sulfoxaflor. To date, only two laboratory-based studies involving four strains (Koo et al. 2014, Chen et al. 2017) have observed substantial cross-resistance (>100 fold) to sulfoxaflor in neonicotinoid resistant insects. Where higher levels of cross-resistance to sulfoxaflor are observed the magnitude of that resistance is far less than that of the selecting neonicotinoid. Importantly, there is no correlation between presence of resistance to neonicotinoids (i.e., imidacloprid, acetamiprid) and cross-resistance to sulfoxaflor. This phenomenon is consistent with and can be attributed to the unique and differentiated chemical class represented by sulfoxalfor. Recent studies have demonstrated that high levels of resistance (resistance ratio = 124-366) to sulfoxaflor can be selected for in the laboratory which thus far appear to be associated with enhanced metabolism by specific cytochrome P450s, although other resistance mechanisms have not yet been excluded. One hypothesis is that sulfoxaflor selects for and is susceptible to a subset of P450s with different substrate specificity. A range of chemoinformatic, molecular modeling, metabolism and target-site studies have been published. These studies point to distinctions in the chemistry of sulfoxaflor, and its metabolism by enzymes associated with resistance to other insecticides, as well as its interaction with insect nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, further supporting the subgrouping of sulfoxaflor (Group 4C) separate from that of other Group 4 insecticides. Herein is an expansion of an earlier review (Sparks et al. 2013), providing an update that considers prior and current studies focused on the mode of action of sulfoxaflor, along with an analysis of the presently available resistance / cross-resistance studies, and implications and recommendations regarding resistance management.

Keywords: Insecticide cross-resistance; Neonicotinoids; Sulfoxalfor metabolism; Sulfoxalfor mode of action; Sulfoximine insecticides.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Insecticide Resistance
  • Insecticides* / toxicity
  • Neonicotinoids / toxicity
  • Nitro Compounds / toxicity
  • Pyridines / toxicity
  • Receptors, Nicotinic*
  • Sulfur Compounds


  • Insecticides
  • Neonicotinoids
  • Nitro Compounds
  • Pyridines
  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • Sulfur Compounds
  • sulfoxaflor