• Colorado potato beetle;
  • environmental safety;
  • Leptinotarsa decemlineata;
  • Perillus bioculatus;
  • protease inhibitors;
  • stinkbug;
  • transgenic plants;
  • tritrophic interactions;
  • zoophytophagous hemipteran predator


Transgenic plants expressing resistance to herbivorous insects may represent a safe and sustainable pest control alternative if they do not interfere with the natural enemies of target pests. Here we examined interactions between oryzacystatin I (OCI), a proteinase inhibitor from rice genetically engineered into potato (Solanum tuberosum cv. Kennebec, line K52) to increase resistance to insect herbivory, and the insect predator Perillus bioculatus. This stinkbug is a relatively specialized predator of caterpillars and leaf-beetle larvae, and may also include plant sap in its predominantly carnivorous diet. One of its preferred prey is Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata), a major target of insect resistance development for potato field crops. Gelatin/sodium dodecyl sulphate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) confirmed that a major fraction of proteinase (gelatinase) activity in P. bioculatus extracts is OCI-sensitive. Among five gelatinolytic bands detected, the slowest-moving one (proteinase I) was inhibited strongly by purified OCI expressed in Escherichia coli or by OCI-transgenic potato extracts, while three other proteinases were partly sensitive to these treatments. There was also evidence of slight inhibition of proteinase I by untransformed potato foliage, suggesting the presence of a natural inhibitor related to OCI at low level in potato foliage. Interestingly, only about 50% of the maximum potential activity of proteinase I was recovered in extracts of P. bioculatus feeding on L. decemlineata larval prey on a diet of OCI-potato foliage, indicating that the predator was sensitive to OCI in the midgut of its prey. However, P. bioculatus on OCI-prey survived, grew and developed normally, indicating ability to compensate prey-mediated exposure to the OCI inhibitor. Confinement of P. bioculatus to potato foliage provided no evidence that potato plant-derived nutrition is a viable alternative to predation, restriction to potato foliage in fact being inferior to free water for short-term survival of nonfeeding first-instar larvae. These results support the view that OCI, an effective inhibitor of a substantial fraction of digestive enzymatic potential in P. bioculatus, should not interfere with its predation potential when expressed in potato plants fed to its prey at a maximum level of ∼0.8% of total soluble proteins in mature foliage.