Regulation of the innate immune responses in the silkworm, Bombyx mori


  • H Tanaka Insect Mimetics Research Unit, National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, 1-2 Owashi, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8634, Japan
  • M Yamakawa Division of Insect Sciences, National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, 1-2 Owashi, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8634, Japan ; Graduate School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8572, Japan


innate immunity, Bombyx mori, antimicrobial peptides, melanization, cellular immunity, paralytic peptide


Insects possess an effective innate immune system against foreign microorganisms. Innate
immunity of insects is divided into two major reaction types: humoral and cellular reactions. Humoral reactions involve soluble proteins in the hemolymph such as phenoloxidase, antimicrobial proteins (AMPs), lysozymes, and lectins, whereas hemocytes mediate cellular reactions such as phagocytosis, encapsulation and nodule formation. In Bombyx mori, six different families of AMPs have been identified: Cecropin, Attacin, Lebocin, Moricin, Gloverin, and Defensin. One lysozyme and three lysozyme-like proteins, one of which is involved in elimination of invading pathogens, are also found in the silkworm. Both lysine-containing peptidoglycan (Lys-PGN) and meso-diaminopimelic acid containing peptidoglycan (DAP-PGN) trigger expression of AMP genes, probably through the Toll and IMD pathways, respectively. DAP-PGN has stronger elicitor activity than Lys-PGN in B. mori because of the difference in transcriptional activity between BmRelishes and BmRels, which are effectors of the IMD and Toll pathways, respectively. Furthermore, two recognition proteins and a serine protease are
involved in activation of prophenoloxidase for melanization, and several C-type lectins, which participated in cellular reactions, were identified in B. mori. Moreover, a paralytic peptide was reported to play important roles in silkworm immunity. Recent development of transgenic technologies and silkworm genome information are expected to accelerate silkworm immunity studies.