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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Semiquinone and ascorbyl radicals in the gut fluids of caterpillars measured with EPR spectrometry.

The biological activity of phenolic compounds ingested by caterpillars is commonly believed to result from their oxidation, although the products of oxidation have been well-characterized in only a few cases. The initial oxidation products of phenols (semiquinone or phenoxyl radicals) can be measured with electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectrometry. In this study semiquinone radicals formed from tannic acid and gallic acid in the gut fluids of two species of caterpillars were measured. In Orgyia leucostigma, in which ingested phenols are not oxidized, semiquinone radicals were absent or at very low intensities. By contrast, in Malacosoma disstria, in which ingested phenols are oxidized, high semiquinone radical intensities were measured. In the absence of detectable levels of semiquinone radicals, ascorbyl radicals were detected in the EPR spectra instead. High molar ratios of ascorbate to phenols in an artificial diet produced ascorbyl radicals in the midgut fluids of both species, while diets containing low molar ratios produced semiquinone radicals. Similar results were obtained in M. disstria fed the leaves of red oak or sugar maple. The results of this study provide further evidence that ascorbate is an essential antioxidant that prevents the oxidation of phenols in the gut fluids of caterpillars, and demonstrate that EPR spectrometry is a valuable method for determining the degree of oxidative activation of phenols ingested by herbivorous insects.[1]


  1. Semiquinone and ascorbyl radicals in the gut fluids of caterpillars measured with EPR spectrometry. Barbehenn, R.V., Poopat, U., Spencer, B. Insect Biochem. Mol. Biol. (2003) [Pubmed]
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