A determining factor for insect feeding preference in the silkworm, Bombyx mori

Zhong Jie Zhang, Shuai Shuai Zhang, Bao Long Niu, Dong Feng Ji, Xiao Jing Liu, Mu Wang Li, Hua Bai, Subba Reddy Palli, Chen Zhu Wang, An Jiang Tan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Feeding preference is critical for insect adaptation and survival. However, little is known regarding the determination of insect feeding preference, and the genetic basis is poorly understood. As a model lepidopteran insect with economic importance, the domesticated silkworm, Bombyx mori, is a well-known monophagous insect that predominantly feeds on fresh mulberry leaves. This species-specific feeding preference provides an excellent model for investigation of host-plant selection of insects, although the molecular mechanism underlying this phenomenon remains unknown. Here, we describe the gene GR66, which encodes a putative bitter gustatory receptor (GR) that is responsible for the mulberry-spe-cific feeding preference of B. mori. With the aid of a transposon-based, clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)/CRISPR-associated protein-9 nuclease (Cas9) system, the GR66 locus was genetically mutated, and homozygous mutant silkworm strains with truncated gustatory receptor 66 (GR66) proteins were established. GR66 mutant larvae acquired new feeding activity, exhibiting the ability to feed on a number of plant species in addition to mulberry leaves, including fresh fruits and grain seeds that are not normally consumed by wild-type (WT) silkworms. Furthermore, a feeding choice assay revealed that the mutant larvae lost their specificity for mulberry. Overall, our findings provide the first genetic and phenotypic evidences that a single bitter GR is a major factor affecting the insect feeding preference.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere3000162
JournalPLoS Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Zhang et al.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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