The Science of Nature

, 106:14 | Cite as

Berberis sawfly contains toxic peptides not only at larval stage

  • Jean-Luc BoevéEmail author
  • Raoul Rozenberg
Short Communication


Livestock can die from grazing in areas where larvae of certain Argidae or Pergidae species containing toxic peptides occur in mass. However, it remains unknown whether other stages also contain these compounds. Here, single specimens of larvae, prepupae, and adults of Arge berberidis, plus samples of its cocoons and larval feces, were analyzed by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. The four peptides, pergidin (Perg), 4-valinepergidin (VPerg), dephosphorylated pergidin (dpPerg), and lophyrotomin (LGln), were detected in each of the three stages. Peptide concentrations, in percentage fresh weight, increased from larval up to adult stages, with mean values from 0.044 to 0.125% for Perg, 0.008 to 0.023% for VPerg, and 0.064 to 0.116% for LGln, whereas dpPerg never exceeded 0.001%. The concentrations of this latter peptide averaged 0.002% in the cocoon built by the prepupa, and nearly no peptides were detected in larval feces. Moreover, the concentrations of the three main peptides (Perg, LGln, and VPerg) tended to be correlated with each other in larvae and especially in adults. It is likely that peptide production, purportedly by an endosymbiont, stops at prepupal stage and that concentration of the peptides increases from prepupa to adult due to a decrease of body weight.


Argidae Arge berberidis Ontogeny LC-MS/MS Pergidin Lophyrotomin 



We warmly thank Filip De Block (Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Brussels, Belgium) for providing the batch of sawfly larvae, Stéphanie Wautier (Université Catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium) for assistance, as well as Herbert R. Jacobson (Chico, California, USA), and anonymous reviewers for valuable comments on the manuscript. JLB received financial support from the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.OD Taxonomy and PhylogenyRoyal Belgian Institute of Natural SciencesBrusselsBelgium
  2. 2.Institute of Condensed Matter and NanosciencesUniversité Catholique de LouvainLouvain-la-NeuveBelgium

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