Insect-resistant transgenic plants have been suggested to have deleterious effects on beneficial predators through transmission of the transgene product by the pest to the predator. To test this hypothesis, effects of oilseed rape expressing the cysteine protease inhibitor oryzacystatin-1 (OC-1) on the predatory ladybird Harmonia axyridis were investigated using diamondback moth Plutella xylostella as the pest species. As expected, oilseed rape expressing OC-1 had no effects on either development or survival of the pest, which utilizes serine digestive proteases. Immunoassays confirmed accumulation of the transgene product in pest larval tissues at levels of up to 3 ng per gut. Characterization of proteolytic digestive enzymes of H. axyridis demonstrated that larvae and adults utilize cysteine and aspartic proteases; the former activity was completely inhibited by oryzacystatin in vitro. However, when H. axyridis larvae consumed prey reared on OC-1 expressing plants over their entire life cycle, no significant effects upon survival or overall development were observed. The inhibitor initially stimulated development, with a shortening of the developmental period of the second instar by 27% (P < 0.0001) accompanied by a 36% increase in weight of second instar larvae (P = 0.007). OC-1 had no detrimental effects on reproductive fitness of adult H. axyridis. Interestingly there was a significant increase in consumption of OC-1 dosed prey. The results show that prey reared on transgenic plants expressing a protein which inhibited ladybird digestive enzymes in vitro had no effects in vivo; the ladybird was able to up-regulate digestive proteases in response to the inhibitor.