Melanization, an important insect defense mechanism, is mediated by clip-domain serine protease (cSP) cascades and is regulated by serpins. Here we show that proteolytic activation of prophenoloxidase (PPO) and PO-catalyzed melanization kill the baculovirus in vitro. Our quantitative proteomics and biochemical experiments revealed that baculovirus infection of the cotton bollworm, Helicoverpa armigera, reduced levels of most cascade members in the host hemolymph and PO activity. By contrast, serpin-9 and serpin-5 were sequentially upregulated after the viral infection. The H. armigera serpin-5 and serpin-9 regulate melanization by directly inhibiting their target proteases cSP4 and cSP6, respectively and cSP6 activates PPO purified from hemolymph. Furthermore, serpin-5/9-depleted insects exhibited high PO activities and showed resistance to baculovirus infection. Together, our results characterize a part of the melanization cascade in H. armigera, and suggest that natural insect virus baculovirus has evolved a distinct strategy to suppress the host immune system.
Yuan, C., Xing, L., Wang, M., Wang, X., Yin, M., Wang, Q., … Zou, Z. (2017). Inhibition of melanization by serpin-5 and serpin-9 promotes baculovirus infection in cotton bollworm Helicoverpa armigera. PLoS Pathogens, 13(9). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1006645