Open Access Research article

Olive fly transcriptomics analysis implicates energy metabolism genes in spinosad resistance

Efthimia Sagri1, Martin Reczko2, Maria-Eleni Gregoriou1, Konstantina T Tsoumani1, Nikolaos E Zygouridis1, Klelia D Salpea2, Frank G Zalom3, Jiannis Ragoussis24 and Kostas D Mathiopoulos1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biochemistry and Biotechnology, University of Thessaly, Ploutonos 26, Larissa, Greece

2 Institute of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Biomedical Sciences Research Centre “Alexander Fleming”, Athens, Greece

3 Department of Entomology, University of California, Davis, CA, USA

4 Present address: Department of Human Genetics, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada

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BMC Genomics 2014, 15:714  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-714

Published: 25 August 2014



The olive fly, Bactrocera oleae, is the most devastating pest of cultivated olives. Its control has been traditionally based on insecticides, mainly organophosphates and pyrethroids. In recent years, the naturalyte spinosad is used against the olive fly. As with other insecticides, spinosad is subject to selection pressures that have led to resistance development. Mutations in the α6 subunit of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) have been implicated in spinosad resistance in several species (e.g., Drosophila melanogaster) but excluded in others (e.g., Musca domestica). Yet, additional mechanisms involving enhanced metabolism of detoxification enzymes (such as P450 monooxygenases or mixed function oxidases) have also been reported. In order to clarify the spinosad resistance mechanisms in the olive fly, we searched for mutations in the α6-subunit of the nAChR and for up-regulated genes in the entire transcriptome of spinosad resistant olive flies.


The olive fly α6-subunit of the nAChR was cloned from the laboratory sensitive strain and a spinosad selected resistant line. The differences reflected silent nucleotide substitutions or conserved amino acid changes. Additionally, whole transcriptome analysis was performed in the two strains in order to reveal any underlying resistance mechanisms. Comparison of over 13,000 genes showed that in spinosad resistant flies nine genes were significantly over-expressed, whereas ~40 were under-expressed. Further functional analyses of the nine over-expressed and eleven under-expressed loci were performed. Four of these loci (Yolk protein 2, ATP Synthase FO subunit 6, Low affinity cationic amino acid transporter 2 and Serine protease 6) showed consistently higher expression both in the spinosad resistant strain and in wild flies from a resistant California population. On the other side, two storage protein genes (HexL1 and Lsp1) and two heat-shock protein genes (Hsp70 and Hsp23) were unfailingly under-expressed in resistant flies.


The observed nucleotide differences in the nAChR-α6 subunit between the sensitive and spinosad resistant olive fly strains did not advocate for the involvement of receptor mutations in spinosad resistance. Instead, the transcriptome comparison between the two strains indicated that several immune system loci as well as elevated energy requirements of the resistant flies might be necessary to lever the detoxification process.

Insecticide tolerance; Spinosyns; Next generation sequencing; Expression analysis