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Insecticides have a tremendous importance in agriculture. Two general classes of insecticide are the organophosphates and the carbamates. These compounds inhibit acetylcholinesterase which is essential for proper functioning of the nervous system. Unfortunately they are not specific to insects so the organophosphates and the carbamates have acute toxicity in other organisms. Another approach to controlling insects is through disrupting the electron transport chain. Rotenone is an example of an insecticide that does this.
A greener approach to insecticides has been developed by Rohm and Haas. Tebufenozide and halofenozide are two compounds that have been identified that selectively bind to the ecdysteroid receptor which is important in regulating the molting process in certain families of insects. Because these compounds are very specific to this particular receptor, they do not target other organisms - even other families of insects.
The module describes the biochemical pathways that the various insecticides interfere with and would be appropriate for a biochemistry course or any course that investigates enzyme inhibition. The module includes "Notes to Instructors," a PowerPoint presentation and fifteen study questions.
Summary prepared July 2005 by Jeff Hansen, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at DePauw University.
Wasilewski, J. A New Chemical Family of Insecticides Exemplified by CONFIRM Selective Caterpillar Control Agent and the Related Selective Control Agents MACH 2 and INTREPID offers a "Green" Alternative to Some of the More Conventionally Used Insecticides. http://academic.scranton.edu/ faculty/ CANNM1/ biochemistry.html (accessed June 2011).