Polyphagous insect herbivores encounter numerous toxins (xenobiotics) as they pass through their life cycle; some toxins are produced naturally by the host plants (allelochemicals) and others by humans (insecticides) to manage these insects having pest status. The host plants have evolved defensive mechanisms for protection from herbivory, including chemical repellents and toxins (secondary metabolites). Many classes of insect repellents and toxic substances, such as isoflavonoids, furanocoumarins, terpenoids, alkaloids and cyanogenic glycosides are synthesized in plants. The biosynthetic pathways leading to these allelochemicals are continually evolving to generate new secondary metabolites. Similarly, to control the herbivorous insect pests, numerous chemicals of synthetic origin are used continuously against them. In response, the attacking organisms also evolve mechanisms that enable them to resist the defensive chemicals of their hosts and those toxins of synthetic origin applied for their control. A variety of defence mechanisms, including enzymatic detoxification systems, physiological tolerance and behavioural avoidance, protect insect herbivores from these xenobiotic compounds. Insect pests have evolved the mechanisms to degrade metabolically (enzymatically) or otherwise circumvent the toxic effect of many types of chemicals that we have synthesized as modern insecticides. The extent to which insects can metabolize and thereby degrade these antibiotics or toxins is of considerable importance for their survival in hostile chemical environment. These mechanisms continue to evolve as insects attempt to colonize new plant species or encounter newer molecules of synthetic insecticides. Generally, three main enzymes, general esterases (GEs), glutathione S-transferases (GSTs) and cytochrome P450-mediated monooxygenases (CYPs), are involved in the process of metabolic detoxification of insecticides. During the past 70 years, following the discovery and extensive use of synthetic insecticides, resistance of insects to insecticides has registered the greatest increase and strongest impact. The evolution of resistance to insecticides is an example of evolutionary process. An insecticide is the selection pressure, which results in a very strong but differential fitness of the individual in a population having susceptible and resistant genotypes. The survival and subsequent reproduction of resistant individuals lead to a change in the frequency of alleles conferring resistance in the population over time. While selection pressure acts to change allele frequencies within pest populations, the phenotype upon which selection operates is a function of both genotype and the environment. Recent studies in insect detoxifying enzymes have revealed further versatility in the adaptation of insects to their environment by the phenomenon of induction. This is the process in which a chemical stimulus enhances the activity of the detoxification enzyme systems by the production of additional enzymes that metabolize toxic chemical substances. Hence, the influence of environmental factors such as continuous usage of insecticides and the chemical constituents (allelochemicals) of host plants on phytophagous insects can have a great impact to induce the enzymatic detoxification systems of insects, thereby promoting the insecticide resistance mechanisms. While all insects do possess detoxification ability, its magnitude is expected to vary among the species with the nature of its recent environment and feeding ecology. The level and type of detoxifying mechanisms differ greatly, which therefore result in varying toxicity among different developmental stages, species and populations. Variation in detoxifying enzyme activity is responsible in part for the selective toxicity of different insecticides, the development of resistance to insecticides and selective adaptation to host plants. Over-expression of these detoxifying enzymes, capable of metabolizing insecticides, can result in a high level of metabolic tolerance/resistance to synthetic insecticides. Increased expressions of genes encoding the major xenobiotic metabolizing enzymes are the most common cause of insecticide resistance in insects.
Part of the book: Insecticides Resistance