Functional impact of silencing the Helicoverpa armigera sex-peptide receptor on female reproductive behaviour


Ada Rafaeli, Department of Food Quality and Safety, Volcani Center, Agricultural Research Organization, P.O. Box 6, Bet Dagan 50250, Israel. Tel.: + 972 3 9683729; fax: + 972 3 9604428; e-mail:


Female Helicoverpa armigera sex pheromone production is under the control of pheromone biosynthesis-activating neuropeptide (PBAN). After mating, females undergo suppression of sex pheromone production and enhanced oviposition as a result of the transfer of male-derived seminal peptides. In a previous study we identified a putative H. armigera sex-peptide receptor (HeaSP-R) and demonstrated a significant up-regulation in gene expression levels of this receptor in brains and pheromone glands of mated females, thereby implicating a regulatory role for sex peptide in the reproductive behaviour of H. armigera. In the present study, we show that virgin females injected with Drosophila melanogaster SP (DrmSP), in addition to inhibition of pheromone production, also exhibited a suppression of calling behaviour and a significant reduction in the gene expression levels of the PBAN-receptor. In addition, RNA interference (RNAi) silencing of the HeaSP-R expression by 50–60% prevented DrmSP-suppression of pheromone production and calling behaviour. Moreover, mated, silenced females failed to increase their oviposition rates as is normally observed in mated females, and their behaviour did not differ from that of virgin females. However, sex pheromone production by mated, silenced females remained low, comparable to mated, normal females, thereby indicating the probable involvement of additional factors in the suppression of sex pheromone production after mating.