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

Mulberry latex rich in antidiabetic sugar-mimic alkaloids forces dieting on caterpillars.

Since ancient times, mulberry leaves (Morus spp.) have been used to rear the silkworm Bombyx mori. Because the silkworm grows well on mulberry leaves, the toxicities and defensive activities of these leaves against herbivorous insects have been overlooked. Here we show that mulberry leaves are highly toxic to caterpillars other than the silkworm B. mori, because of the ingredients of the latex, a milky sap exuded from mulberry leaf veins. The toxicity of mulberry leaves was lost when the latex was eliminated from the leaves, and artificial diets containing latex showed toxicity. Mulberry latex contained very high concentrations of alkaloidal sugar-mimic glycosidase inhibitors reported to have antidiabetic activities, such as 1,4-dideoxy-1,4-imino-D-arabinitol, 1-deoxynojirimycin, and 1,4-dideoxy-1,4-imino-D-ribitol. The overall concentrations of these inhibitors in latex reached 1.5-2.5% (8-18% dry weight) in several mulberry varieties, which were approximately 100 times the concentrations previously reported from whole mulberry leaves. These sugar-mimic alkaloids were toxic to caterpillars but not to the silkworm B. mori, indicating that the silkworm can circumvent the mulberry tree's defense. Our results suggest that latex ingredients play key roles in defense of this tree and of other plants against insect herbivory, and they imply that plant latexes are treasuries of bioactive substances useful as medicines and pesticides.[1]


  1. Mulberry latex rich in antidiabetic sugar-mimic alkaloids forces dieting on caterpillars. Konno, K., Ono, H., Nakamura, M., Tateishi, K., Hirayama, C., Tamura, Y., Hattori, M., Koyama, A., Kohno, K. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. (2006) [Pubmed]
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