Biotoxicity Evaluation of a Cationic Star Polymer on a Predatory Ladybird and Cooperative Pest Control by Polymer-Delivered Pesticides and Ladybird

ACS Appl Mater Interfaces. 2022 Feb 2;14(4):6083-6092. doi: 10.1021/acsami.1c24077. Epub 2022 Jan 24.


Although employing nanocarriers for gene/drug delivery shows great potential in agricultural fields, the biotoxicity of nanocarriers is a major concern for large-scale applications. Herein, we synthesized a cationic star polymer (SPc) as a pesticide nanocarrier/adjuvant to evaluate its safety against a widely used predatory ladybird (Harmonia axyridis). The application of SPc at extremely high concentrations nearly did not influence the hatching of ladybird eggs but it led to the death of ladybird larvae at lethal concentration 50 (LC50) values of 43.96 and 19.85 mg/mL through the soaking and feeding methods, respectively. The oral feeding of SPc downregulated many membrane protein genes and lysosome genes significantly, and the cell membrane and nucleus in gut tissues were remarkably damaged by SPc application, revealing that the lethal mechanism might be SPc-mediated membrane damage. Furthermore, the oral feeding of SPc increased the relative abundance of Serratia bacteria in ladybird guts to result in bacterial infection. Coapplication of ladybird and SPc-loaded thiamethoxam/matrine achieved desired control efficacies of more than 80% against green peach aphids, revealing that the coapplication could overcome the slow-acting property of ladybirds. To our knowledge, this is the first attempt to investigate the polymer-mediated lethal mechanism toward natural enemies and explore the possibility of coapplying SPc-loaded pesticides and natural enemies for pest management.

Keywords: biotoxicity; drug delivery system; ladybird; pesticide adjuvant; polymer.

MeSH terms

  • Alkaloids / toxicity
  • Animals
  • Bacterial Infections / etiology
  • Coleoptera / drug effects*
  • Coleoptera / microbiology
  • Drug Carriers / chemistry*
  • Drug Carriers / toxicity
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / drug effects
  • Insecticides / toxicity*
  • Larva / drug effects
  • Matrines
  • Ovum / drug effects
  • Polymethacrylic Acids / chemistry*
  • Polymethacrylic Acids / toxicity
  • Quinolizines / toxicity
  • Thiamethoxam / toxicity


  • Alkaloids
  • Drug Carriers
  • Insecticides
  • Polymethacrylic Acids
  • Quinolizines
  • Thiamethoxam
  • Matrines