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Metabolic insights into the cold survival strategy and overwintering of the common cutworm, Spodoptera litura (Fabricius) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae)

Zhu, Wei, Zhang, Huan, Meng, Qian, Wang, Menglong, Zhou, Guiling, Li, Xuan, Wang, Hongtuo, Miao, Lin, Qin, Qilian, Zhang, Jihong
Journal of insect physiology 2017 v.100 pp. 53-64
Spodoptera exigua, Spodoptera litura, amino acid metabolism, biosynthesis, cold stress, cutworms, dietary supplements, energy, free amino acids, global warming, greenhouses, insect physiology, larvae, lipids, locomotion, metabolomics, overwintering, proteinases, serine, temperature, trehalose, Asia
The common cutworm, Spodoptera litura (Fabricius) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae), is a destructive pest in Asia. Although overwintering in the field has not been reported for this species, their larvae are capable of long-term survival in fluctuating temperatures, i.e., 5°C (12h) plus 13°C (12h), if food is available. With an increase in climate change due to global warming and the widespread use of greenhouses, further understanding of their cold survival strategy is needed to predict and control their population in the future. In this study, metabolomics was performed to analyze the metabolic features of S. litura larvae exposed to two typical low temperatures: 15°C and 4°C, at which the development, locomotion and feeding activities are maintained or halted, respectively. The results showed that the strategies that regulate lipid and amino acid metabolism were similar at 15°C and 4°C. Cold exposure induced a metabolic shift of energy from carbohydrate to lipid and decreased free amino acids level. Biosynthesis likely contributed to the decrease in amino acids levels even at 4°C, a non-feeding temperature, suggesting an insufficient suppression of anabolism. This explains why food and high temperature pulses are necessary for their long-term cold survival. Glycometabolism was different between 15°C and 4°C. Carbohydrates were used rapidly at 15°C, while trehalose accumulated at 4°C. Interestingly, abundant trehalose and serine are prominent features of Spodoptera exigua larvae, an overwintering species, when compared to S. litura larvae. Exposure to 4°C also induced up-regulation of carbohydrase and protease in the guts of S. litura. Therefore, it is likely that concurrence of food supplement and fluctuating temperatures could facilitate the cold survival of S. litura larvae. We also found that exposure to 4°C could activate the mevalonate pathway in S. litura larvae, which might be related to glycometabolism at 4°C. Overall, our study describes systematically the responses of a cold susceptible insect, S. litura, to low temperatures and explains how fluctuating temperatures facilitate their long-term cold survival indicating the possibility for overwintering of S. litura larvae with global warming and agricultural reforms.