Crop protection against destructive pests has been at the forefront of recent agricultural advancements. Rapid adaptive evolution has led to insects becoming immune to the chemicals employed to quell their damage. Insecticide resistance is a serious problem that negatively impacts food production, food storage, human health, and the environment. To make matters more complicated are the strict regulations in place on insecticide development, driven by rising public concern relating to the harmful effects these chemicals have on the environment and on society. A key component to solving the problem of insect resistance, while keeping public welfare in mind, is the identification of novel insectspecific protein targets. One unexplored target for the development of new targeted insecticides are the insect arylalkylamine N-acetyltransferases (iAANATs). This group of enzymes, shown to be intrinsic in the development of the insect cuticle, is an untapped well of potential for target-specific inhibition, while offering enough variety to ensure protection for non-target enzymes. In this review, we highlight kinetic, genetic and bioinformatic data showing that the iAANATs are intriguing insecticide targets that should be specific only for particular insect pests. Such a pest-specific insecticide would minimize environmental harm by eliminating such non-discriminate attacks which have made insecticides such a highly regulated industry, and would have negligible toxicity to humans and other mammals.
Brian G O’Flynn, Aidan J Hawley and David J Merkler