The insect voltage-gated sodium channel as target of insecticides

Annu Rev Entomol. 1999;44:429-55. doi: 10.1146/annurev.ento.44.1.429.


Examination of the function, chemistry, and pharmacology of the voltage-gated insect sodium channel (ISC) reveals that the ISC closely resembles its vertebrate counterpart in electrophysiology and ion conductance, primary structure and allocation of all functional domains, and its pharmacological diversity and flexibility exhibited by the occurrence of different allosterically coupled receptor-binding sites for various neurotoxicants. The toxicants include several groups of insecticides, namely DDT and its analogues, pyrethroids, N-alkylamides, and dihydropyrazoles, which affect channel gating and ion permeability. Despite their similarity, the insect and vertebrate channels are pharmacologically distinguishable, as revealed by the responsiveness of the heterologously expressed Drosophila para clone to channel modifiers and blockers and the occurrence of the insect-selective sodium channel neurotoxins derived from arachnid venoms presently used for the design of recombinant baculovirus-mediated selective bioinsecticides. The pharmacological specificity of the ISC may lead to the design of insect-selective toxicants, and its pharmacological flexibility may direct the use of ISC insecticides for resistance management. Insecticide resistance [such as knockdown resistance (KDR)] is acquired by natural selection and operated by increased metabolism, channel mutagenesis, or both. The resistance issue can be dealt with in several ways. One is by simultaneous application of low doses of synergistic, allosterically coupled mixtures (thus delaying or preventing the onset of resistance). An alternative is to replace an insecticide to which resistance was acquired by channel mutation with a different ISC toxicant to which increased susceptibility was conferred by the same mutation. Such a possibility was exemplified by a significant increase in susceptibility to N-alkylamides, as well as an insect-selective neurotoxin revealed by KDR insects. Third, both of these methods can be combined. Thus owing to its pharmacological uniqueness, the ISC may serve as a high-priority target for future selective and resistance-manageable insecticides.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • Drosophila / drug effects
  • Drosophila / genetics
  • Drosophila / metabolism
  • Gene Expression
  • Genes, Insect
  • Insecta / drug effects*
  • Insecta / genetics
  • Insecta / metabolism*
  • Insecticide Resistance
  • Insecticides / metabolism
  • Insecticides / pharmacology*
  • Neurotoxins / metabolism
  • Neurotoxins / pharmacology
  • Sodium Channels / drug effects*
  • Sodium Channels / genetics
  • Sodium Channels / metabolism
  • Vertebrates


  • Insecticides
  • Neurotoxins
  • Sodium Channels