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2004.07.27

兵隊アブラムシの毒は酵素だった

Yahoo!NEWSより「酵素の「毒」を敵に注入 仲間を守る兵隊アブラムシ」(共同通信)

 アブラムシの中で捕食者を攻撃して集団を守る「兵隊アブラムシ」は、体内でつくる消化酵素を毒に流用し、敵に注入していることが産業技術総合研究所(茨城県つくば市)のグループによる26日までの研究で分かった。

Shakey動物で毒をもつものはほ乳類や鳥類などの高等動物にはほとんどなく、ヘビなど爬虫類、ヒキガエルなど両生類、ハチなどの節足動物のように身を守るすべの少ない動物たちがもっています。

昆虫類の毒といえばやはりハチでしょうか。ハチの場合は毒で人が死ぬわけではなくハチに刺されたときに体内にできるIge抗体というものがアレルギー反応をおこすのが原因です。ハチの毒の成分はアミン、ペプチド、酵素などの混合物のようですが詳しくは分かっていません。

この調査では兵隊アブラムシが対象になっています。アリなどと違いアブラムシが社会性をもった昆虫であることが確認されたのはそれほど昔のことではありません。アブラムシは同じ親から単為生殖によって生まれますが、この中に普通に脱皮・生長して生殖に参加する個体とコロニーに侵入してきた外敵を攻撃する脱皮成長しない個体に分かれます。この兵隊アブラムシの毒が今回の研究のテーマのようです。

 遺伝子の働き方の違いを調べると、兵隊アブラムシはほかの虫と比べ、消化管内で、タンパク質を分解するカテプシンBという酵素をつくる遺伝子が特によく働いていた。アブラムシに攻撃されて死んだガの幼虫を分析すると、この酵素が大量に検出され、毒として使われていることが分かった。

酵素だけを毒としているわけではないと思いますが、酵素が毒として働く過程を詳しく調べれば殺虫剤などに応用がきくかもしれません。

<参考>産業技術総合研究所

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