Dalibor Kodrik, Emad Ibrahim, Umesh K. Gautam, Radmila Capkova Frydrychova, Andrea Bednarova, Vaclav Kristufek, and Pavel Jedlicka

This study examined the expression and role of vitellogenin (Vg) in the body of the firebug Pyrrhocoris apterus (Heteroptera, Insecta) during the infection elicited by two entomopathogenic organisms, the nematode Steinernema carpocapsae and the fungus Isaria fumosorosea. Infection by S. carpocapsae significantly up-regulated Vg mRNA expression in the male body. The corresponding increase in Vg protein expression was also confirmed by electrophoretic and immunoblotting analyses. Remarkably, in females, the tendency was opposite. Nematodal infection significantly reduced both Vg mRNA and Vg protein expression levels in fat body and hemolymph, respectively. We speculate that infection of reproductive females reduces Vg expression to the level, which is still sufficient for defense, but insufficient for reproduction. This circumstance reduces energy expenditure and helps the individual to cope with the infection. Importantly, purified Vg significantly inhibited growth of Xenorhabdus spp., an entomotoxic bacteria isolated from S. carpocapsae. However, the effect of Vg against I. fumosorosea was not so obvious. The fungus significantly stimulated Vg gene expression in males, however, a similar increase was not recapitulated on the protein level. Nevertheless, in females, both mRNA and protein Vg levels were significantly reduced after the fungal infection. The obtained data demonstrate that Vg is likely an important defense protein, possibly with a specific activity. This considerably expands the known spectrum of Vg functions, as its primary role was thought to be limited to regulating egg development in the female body.

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