The world of agricultural science has been abuzz with a groundbreaking study published in the journal ‘Functional Plant Biology’ (DOI: 10.1071/FP22192) that details defensive mechanisms in soybean seeds being triggered by the notorious southern green stink bug (Nezara viridula), a pest that has long bedeviled farmers by compromising seed quality and cutting into crop yields.

The research, led by Jésica A. Barneto and team, delves into how lipoxygenases (LOX), a group of enzymes, orchestrate a plant’s chemical arsenal to launch a potent response against insect herbivory in soybean (Glycine max), the globe’s pre-eminent seed legume. This discovery has significant implications for both plant biology and pest management strategies, offering a glimpse into the sophisticated interactions between plants and their assailants within the ecosystem.

The Role of Lipoxygenases in Plant Defense Mechanisms

The study placed particular focus on the LOX pathway in soybean seeds, which becomes activated when the plant is under duress from insect attacks. LOX enzymes catalyze the oxidation of polyunsaturated fatty acids, which in turn leads to the creation of signaling molecules like jasmonic acid (JA), a key player in plant defense responses.

Upon the intrusion of the southern green stink bug, researchers observed a surge in the expression and activities of two LOX isoforms, LOX 1 and LOX 2, as well as the enzyme LOX 3, in developing soybean seeds. Not coincidentally, these spike in LOX activity correlates with the presence of heightened levels of defense compounds in the plant. These compounds include protease inhibitors (PIs) and isoflavonoids, which serve as a biochemical barrier against insect feeding.

Defensive Protease Inhibitors in Soybean Seeds

Soybean seeds inherently stockpile PIs that hinder proteolytic enzymes in the digestive systems of pests like the southern green stink bug. The study marked a considerable rise in cysteine PIs and trypsin PIs—an arsenal of defensive proteins—subsequent to the infestation by stink bugs.

Moreover, the upregulation of these PIs was also observed following external application of methyl jasmonate (MeJA), implying a direct association between herbivory-induced JA in soybean seeds and the plant’s defensive response. This suggests that the LOX pathway, through the mediation of JA, is a critical player in this defense by influencing PI activities.

The Impact on Stink Bug Physiology

This scientific inquiry provides compelling evidence that the defensive mechanism activated in soybeans could be a game changer in how these crops handle pest invasions. The high activity of PIs in seeds under attack adversely affected the gut enzymes of the southern green stink bug, namely cysteine proteases and α-amylases, integral to the bug’s ability to develop and reproduce.

As a result of these elevated PI levels, the digestive enzyme activities within the stink bugs that feasted on these field-grown soybeans were significantly impaired. The disruption of their digestive processes deters the bugs from further feeding off the affected plants.

Groundbreaking Contribution to Plant-Pest Interactions

This research lays an extraordinary foundation for further exploration into how plants can naturally defend themselves against pests, potentially paving the way for new approaches to crop protection that leverage the plant’s inherent defense systems.

The study represents a milestone as it is the first to elucidate the involvement of the LOX pathway in modulating the JA-regulated defense mechanisms in soybean seeds against stink bug attack. By understanding the activation and functioning of the LOX isoforms, researchers are now better equipped to counsel on sustainable agriculture practices.

Future Directions and Applications

Given the significance of these findings, the future might see the incorporation of these defensive traits into soybean breeding programs, creating varieties that boast enhanced resistance to pests.

Concurrently, these insights could lead to the development of novel pest control agents that mimic the defensive compounds in soybean seeds. Such knowledge is especially critical at a time when mitigating pesticide use is becoming increasingly important for both environmental and human health.


In an era where sustainable farming practices and food security are at the forefront of global concerns, this study provides hope that we might be able to work with nature, rather than against it, in the fight against crop pests. The intricate biochemistry of plant defenses, as revealed by the research of Barneto et al., underscores the resilience and resourcefulness of plants under attack and their potential to inform greener, more efficient agricultural methodologies.

For more detailed insights into this study, readers can access the full research article published in ‘Functional Plant Biology’, referenced with DOI 10.1071/FP22192.


1. Barneto, J. A., Sardoy, P. M., Pagano, E. A., & Zavala, J. A. (2024). Lipoxygenases regulate digestive enzyme inhibitor activities in developing seeds of field-grown soybean against the southern green stink bug (Nezara viridula). Functional Plant Biology, DOI: 10.1071/FP22192.


1. Soybean pest defense
2. Lipoxygenases soybean
3. Stink bug protease inhibitors
4. Sustainable crop protection
5. Plant enzyme inhibitors