Some corn varieties that arose on the Caribbean island of Antigua defend themselves with chemical attacks that leave insect gut linings in tatters.
When armyworm caterpillars make the mistake of chewing on some of this corn, they don't grow well, reaching only half the weight of counterparts that consume less gut-wrenching corn, says Dawn S. Luthe of Mississippi State University. Now, she and her colleagues propose at least one reason why.
Corn plants under attack quickly accumulate a cysteine protease–a protein-slicing enzyme–surrounding the location where the caterpillars are chewing. In an upcoming Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers report microscope observations of the sorry state of the innards