Studies on the mode of action of cholesterol oxidase on insect midgut membranes

Zhen Shen, David R. Corbin, John T. Greenplate, Robert J. Grebenok, David W. Galbraith, John P. Purcell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Cholesterol oxidase (EC is an insecticidal protein known to have potent activity against the boll weevil, milder activity against a number of lepidopteran species, and virtually no activity against other insects. Several factors that could explain its species-dependent differential activity were examined. We compared cholesterol concentrations and rates of cholesterol oxidation in the midgut membranes from larvae of boll weevil (Anthonomus grandis grandis Boheman), southern corn rootworm (Diabrotica undecimpunctata Howardi Barber), tobacco budworm (Heliothis virescens Fabricius), and yellow mealworm (Tenebrio molitor Linnaeus). Results showed that cholesterol concentration alone could not account for the differences in insecticidal activity and that midgut brush-border membranes of all species tested were generally susceptible to oxidation by cholesterol oxidase in vitro. We also demonstrated that cholesterol oxidase stability in the midgut environment was similar for the species tested and thus could not account for the differential activity. However, comparison of the pH of the insect midgut fluids with the pH optimum of cholesterol oxidase indicated that the lower sensitivity of lepidopteran larvae to the enzyme may be partially due to the alkaline nature of their midgut environments. In some species, oxidation caused significant changes in the activities of brush-border membrane alkaline phosphatase, and these changes did correlate with the susceptibility of the insect to cholesterol oxidase.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)429-442
Number of pages14
JournalArchives of insect biochemistry and physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1997


  • Brush-border membrane vesicle
  • Cholesterol
  • Cholesterol oxidase
  • Insecticide
  • Midgut

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Insect Science


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