Targeting an antimicrobial effector function in insect immunity as a pest control strategy

Mark S. Bulmer, Ido Bachelet, Rahul Raman, Rebeca B. Rosengaus, Ram Sasisekharan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

126 Scopus citations


Insect pests such as termites cause damages to crops and manmade structures estimated at over $30 billion per year, imposing a global challenge for the human economy. Here, we report a strategy for compromising insect immunity that might lead to the development of nontoxic, sustainable pest control methods. Gramnegative bacteria binding proteins (GNBPs) are critical for sensing pathogenic infection and triggering effector responses. We report that termite GNBP-2 (tGNBP-2) shows β(1,3)-glucanase effector activity previously unknown in animal immunity and is a pleiotropic pattern recognition receptor and an antimicrobial effector protein. Termites incorporate this protein into the nest building material, where it functions as a nest-embedded sensor that cleaves and releases pathogenic components, priming termites for improved antimicrobial defense. By means of rational design, we present an inexpensive, nontoxic small molecule glycomimetic that blocks tGNBP-2, thus exposing termites in vivo to accelerated infection and death from specific and opportunistic pathogens. Such a molecule, introduced into building materials and agricultural methods, could protect valuable assets from insect pests.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12652-12657
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number31
StatePublished - 4 Aug 2009
Externally publishedYes


FundersFunder number
National Institute of General Medical SciencesR37GM057073


    • Gram-negative bacteria binding proteins
    • Pattern recognition receptor
    • Social insect immunity
    • Termites
    • β(1,3)-glucanase


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