Screening method for inhibitors against formosan subterranean termite β-glucosidases in vivo

Betty C.R. Zhu
Gregg Henderson
Roger A. Laine


Cellulose, a main structural constituent of plants, is the major nutritional component for wood-feeding termites. Enzymatic hydrolysis of cellulose to glucose occurs by the action of cellulases, a mixture of the three major classes of enzymes including endo-1,4-β-glucanases, exo-1,4-β-glucanases, and β-glucosidase. Lower termites, such as the Formosan subterranean termite, Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki, require cellulolytic protozoa to efficiently digest cellulose for survival. Inhibitors developed against any of these cellulase system enzymes would be a potential termite treatment avenue. Our effort was to develop a screening system to determine whether termites could be controlled by administration of cellulase system inhibitors. Some reported compounds such as gluconolactone, conduritol B epoxide, and 1-deoxynojirimycin are potential β-glucosidase inhibitors, but they have only been tested in vitro. We describe an in vivo method to test the inhibitory ability of the designated chemicals to act on β-1,4- glucosidases, one member of the cellulase system that is the key step that releases glucose for use as an energy and carbon source for termites. Inhibition in releasing glucose from cellooligosaccharides might be sufficient to starve termites. Fluorescein di-β-D-glucopyranoside was used as the artificial enzyme substrate and the fluorescent intensity of the reaction product (fluorescein) quantified with an automated fluorescence plate reader. Several known in vitro β-1,4-glucosidase inhibitors were tested in vivo, and their inhibitory potential was determined. Endogenous and protozoan cellulase activities are both assumed to play a role. © 2005 Entomological Society of America.