• Manduca sexta;
  • peptidoglycan;
  • lysozyme;
  • bactericidal proteins;
  • insect immunity


In several insect species, serum lysozyme and antibacterial peptide concentration increases after injection of bacteria and other foreign substances. The purpose of this study was to characterize the specificity of this induction in the tobacco hornworm, Manduca sexta. By 48 h after injection of killed bacteria, lysozyme activity was approximately tenfold greater than in untreated insects. This maximal response was observed after injection of every bacterial species tested and after injection of purified cell walls of Micrococcus luteus. A variety of acellular particles, soluble molecules, and bacterial cell wall components were either poor lysozyme inducers or elicited no change in lysozyme concentration. The polysaccharide zymosan from yeast cell walls was a moderate lysozyme inducer. Peptidoglycan from M. luteus cell walls was found to induce lysozyme to a level as great or greater than whole cell walls. Small fragments of peptidoglycan generated by hen egg white lysozyme digestion were isolated, partially characterized, and shown to be good inducers of lysozyme as well as other antibacterial peptides. It appears that peptidoglycan provides a signal that initiates antibacterial responses in the insect.