Oxidative stress delays development and alters gene expression in the agricultural pest moth, Helicoverpa armigera

Nonthakorn Apirajkamol, Bill James, Karl H.J. Gordon, Tom K. Walsh, Angela McGaughran*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    9 Citations (Scopus)


    Stress is a widespread phenomenon that all organisms must endure. Common in nature is oxidative stress, which can interrupt cell homeostasis to cause cell damage and may be derived from respiration or from environmental exposure through diet. As a result of the routine exposure from respiration, many organisms can mitigate the effects of oxidative stress, but less is known about responses to oxidative stress from other sources. Helicoverpa armigera is a major agricultural pest moth that causes significant damage to crops worldwide. Here, we examined the effects of oxidative stress on H. armigera by chronically exposing individuals to paraquat—a free radical producer—and measuring changes in development (weight, developmental rate, lifespan), and gene expression. We found that oxidative stress strongly affected development in H. armigera, with stressed samples spending more time as caterpillars than control samples (>24 vs. ~15 days, respectively) and therefore living longer overall. We found 1,618 up- and 761 down-regulated genes, respectively, in stressed versus control samples. In the up-regulated gene set, was an over-representation of biological processes related to cuticle and chitin development, glycine metabolism, and oxidation–reduction. Oxidative stress clearly impacts physiology and biochemistry in H. armigera and the interesting finding of an extended lifespan in stressed individuals could demonstrate hormesis, the phenomenon whereby toxic compounds can actually be beneficial at low doses. Collectively, our findings provide new insights into physiological and gene expression responses to oxidative stress in invertebrates.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)5680-5693
    Number of pages14
    JournalEcology and Evolution
    Issue number12
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020


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