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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Immune responses of Helicoverpa armigera to different kinds of pathogens

Qian Wang, Yang Liu, Hong-Juan He, Xiao-Fan Zhao* and Jin-Xing Wang*

Author Affiliations

School of Life Sciences, Shandong University; Jinan, Shandong 250100, China

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BMC Immunology 2010, 11:9  doi:10.1186/1471-2172-11-9

Published: 3 March 2010



Insects react against pathogens through innate immunity. The cotton bollworm Helicoverpa armigera (H. armigera) is an important defoliator and an extremely destructive pest insect of many crops. The elucidation of the mechanism of the immune response of H. armigera to various pathogens can provide a theoretical basis for new approaches to biologically control this pest.


Four kinds of pathogens Bacillus thuringiensis, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Candida albicans, and Autographa californica multiple nucleocapsid nucleopolyhedrovirus harbored green fluorescence protein and polyhedron (AcMNPV-GFP) were used to challenge the insect. The cellular and humoral immune responses to the pathogens were analyzed in the challenged H. armigera. The results show that in the five kinds of haemocytes, only granulocytes phagocytized the Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria and fungi. All haemocytes can be infected by AcMNPV. Fourteen immune-related genes including pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) such as peptidoglycan recognition proteins (HaPGRP and HaPGRP C) and Gram-Negative Bacteria-Binding Protein (HaGNBP), and antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) such as cecropin-1, 2 and 3 (HaCec-1, 2 and 3), lysozyme (HaLys), attacin (HaAtt), gallerimycin-like (HaGall), gloverin-like (HaGlo), moricin-like (HaMor), cobatoxin-like (HaCob), galiomicin-like (HaGali), and immune inducible protein (HaIip) appeared in different expression profiles to different pathogen infections. The transcripts of 13 immune related genes (except HaPGRPC) are obviously up-regulated by Gram-positive bacteria. HaCec-1 and 3, HaMor, HaAtt, HaLys, HaIip, HaPGRP and HaGNBP are greatly up-regulated after fungal infection. HaGNBP, HaCec-2, HaGall, HaGlo, HaMor, HaCob, HaGali obviously increased in Gram-negative bacterial infection. Only five genes, HaGNBP, HaCec-1, HaGali, HaGlo, and HaLys, are weakly up-regulated after viral infection. The AMP transcripts had higher expression levels than the PRR transcripts after the microbial challenge.


These data suggest that the granulocytes are the major phagocytes in H. armigera. All haemocytes can be infected by AcMNPV. The transcripts of 14 immune related genes have different expression patterns in H. armigera infected by different pathogens, which means that the immune-related genes may have different functions against various kinds of pathogens.