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Sublethal Effects of Solanum nigrum Fruit Extract and Its Pure Glycoalkaloids on the Physiology of Tenebrio molitor (Mealworm)

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      Background: Solanaceae plants produce glycoalkaloids (GAs) that affect various physiological processes of herbivorous insects and they are being tested as potential alternatives for synthetic pesticides. They cause lethal and sublethal effects. Nevertheless, their mode of action remains unclear. Therefore, we examined the effects of Solanum nigrum fruit extracts and pure glycoalkaloids on a model beetle, Tenebrio molitor. Methods: Plant extracts or pure alkaloids were added to the food of the larvae for three days. The lipid, glycogen, and protein content in the fat body and the midgut were determined, and the contractility of the heart, hindgut, and oviduct muscles was tested using the video-microscopy technique. Finally, the ultrastructure of the fat body and the midgut was observed using electron microscopy. Results: No lethal effects were noted. Sublethal changes were observed in the content of biomolecules, malformations of organelles, chromatin condensation, and heart and oviduct contractility. The observed effects differed between the tested glycoalkaloids and the extract. Conclusions: Both the extract and pure GAs have a wide range of effects that may result in impaired development, food intake, and reproduction. Some early effects may be used as bioindicators of stress. The effects of the extract and pure alkaloids suggest that the substances produced by the plant may act additively or synergistically.

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          The fat body plays major roles in the life of insects. It is a dynamic tissue involved in multiple metabolic functions. One of these functions is to store and release energy in response to the energy demands of the insect. Insects store energy reserves in the form of glycogen and triglycerides in the adipocytes, the main fat body cell. Insect adipocytes can store a great amount of lipid reserves as cytoplasmic lipid droplets. Lipid metabolism is essential for growth and reproduction and provides energy needed during extended nonfeeding periods. This review focuses on energy storage and release and summarizes current understanding of the mechanisms underlying these processes in insects.

            Author and article information

            [1 ]Department of Animal Physiology and Development, Institute of Experimental Biology, Faculty of Biology, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, ul. Umultowska 89, 61-614 Poznań, Poland; szyymon@ (S.C.); monikasz@ (M.S.); ed@ (Z.A.)
            [2 ]Department of Sciences, University of Basilicata, Via dell’Ateneo Lucano 10, 85100 Potenza, Italy; filomenalelario@
            [3 ]Electron and Confocal Microscope Laboratory, Faculty of Biology, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, ul. Umultowska 89, 61-614 Poznań, Poland
            Author notes
            [* ]Correspondence: marta.spochacz@ (M.S.); sabino.bufo@ (S.A.B.); Tel.: +48-61-829-5914 (M.S.); +39-097120-5232 (S.A.B.)
            Toxins (Basel)
            Toxins (Basel)
            01 December 2018
            December 2018
            : 10
            : 12
            © 2018 by the authors.

            Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (



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