MAPK-dependent hormonal signaling plasticity contributes to overcoming Bacillus thuringiensis toxin action in an insect host

Zhaojiang Guo, Shi Kang, Dan Sun, Lijun Gong, Junlei Zhou, Jianying Qin, Le Guo, Liuhong Zhu, Yang Bai, Fan Ye, Qingjun Wu, Shaoli Wang, Neil Crickmore, Xuguo Zhou, Youjun Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


The arms race between entomopathogenic bacteria and their insect hosts is an excellent model for decoding the intricate coevolutionary processes of host-pathogen interaction. Here, we demonstrate that the MAPK signaling pathway is a general switch to trans-regulate differential expression of aminopeptidase N and other midgut genes in an insect host, diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella), thereby countering the virulence effect of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxins. Moreover, the MAPK cascade is activated and fine-tuned by the crosstalk between two major insect hormones, 20-hydroxyecdysone (20E) and juvenile hormone (JH) to elicit an important physiological response (i.e. Bt resistance) without incurring the significant fitness costs often associated with pathogen resistance. Hormones are well known to orchestrate physiological trade-offs in a wide variety of organisms, and our work decodes a hitherto undescribed function of these classic hormones and suggests that hormonal signaling plasticity is a general cross-kingdom strategy to fend off pathogens.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3003
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Prof. Kaiyu Liu from the Central China Normal University for providing the pie2-GFP-N1 expression vector, and we also thank Prof. Xia Cui and Dr. Haijing Wang from our institute for the assistance with the UPLC–MS/MS experiment. This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31630059 and 31701813), the Central Public-interest Scientific Institution Basal Research Fund (IVF-BRF2020015), the Beijing Key Laboratory for Pest Control and Sustainable Cultivation of Vegetables, and the Science and Technology Innovation Program of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS-ASTIP-IVFCAAS).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, The Author(s).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry (all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (all)
  • General
  • Physics and Astronomy (all)


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