© 2016 Husseneder et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. The Formosan subterranean termite, Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki, is a costly invasive urban pest in warm and humid regions around the world. Feeding workers of the Formosan subterranean termite genetically engineered yeast strains that express synthetic protozoacidal lytic peptides has been shown to kill the cellulose digesting termite gut protozoa, which results in death of the termite colony. In this study, we tested if Melittin, a natural lytic peptide from bee venom, could be delivered into the termite gut via genetically engineered yeast and if the expressed Melittin killed termites via lysis of symbiotic protozoa in the gut of termite workers and/or destruction of the gut tissue itself. Melittin expressing yeast did kill protozoa in the termite gut within 56 days of exposure. The expressed Melittin weakened the gut but did not add a synergistic effect to the protozoacidal action by gut necrosis. While Melittin could be applied for termite control via killing the cellulose-digesting protozoa in the termite gut, it is unlikely to be useful as a standalone product to control insects that do not rely on symbiotic protozoa for survival.
Publication Source (Journal or Book title)
Husseneder, C., Donaldson, J., & Foil, L. (2016). Genetically engineered yeast expressing a lytic peptide from bee venom (Melittin) kills symbiotic protozoa in the gut of Formosan subterranean termites. PLoS ONE, 11 (3) https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0151675