In most insects dependent on food resources that deplete seasonally, mechanisms exist to protect against starvation. Insects overcome periods of food depletion using diapause-associated physiological mechanisms, such as increased energy resources in fat bodies and suppression of metabolism. Because autophagy supplies energy resources through the degradation of intracellular components, we hypothesized that it might be an additional strategy to combat starvation during overwintering. In this study, we measured the abundance of the proteins involved in the signaling pathway of autophagy during overwintering in adults of the bean bug Riptortus pedestris (Fabricius) (Hemiptera: Alydidae), which must withstand the periodic depletion of its host plants from late fall to early spring. Although the levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid receptor-associated protein (GABARAP) markedly increased after the cessation of food supply, AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and target of rapamycin (TOR) were not found to be associated with food depletion. Thus, food depletion appears to induce autophagy independent of AMPK and TOR. The GABARAP levels significantly increased universally when the food supply ceased, irrespective of the diapause status of adults and low-temperature conditions. In overwintering diapause adults under seminatural conditions, the GABARAP levels significantly increased during early spring. Thus, autophagy appears to assist the survival of the bean bugs under natural conditions of food deficiency.
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