Phillips2014_Article_PotentialToExploitPostmortemEn.pdf (641.44 kB)

Potential to exploit postmortem enzyme degradation for evaluating arthropod viability

Download (641.44 kB)
journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-03, 20:07 authored by Craig PhillipsCraig Phillips, Ilia Iline, Max Novoselov, Nicola Richards
Inspecting for live organisms is the main method used to verify efficacy of phytosanitary treatments. Evaluating whether small, immobile organisms such as eggs, pupae and scale insects are alive or dead usually involves either checking morphological criteria or rearing them to observe development. These methods can be inaccurate, impractical and time consuming; thus, better methods are needed. To evaluate the potential for developing enzyme-based viability assays, we used electrophoretic gels to evaluate postmortem degradation of ten enzymes in Musca domestica L. (Diptera: Muscidae), four in Bemisia flocculosa Gill and Holder (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae), and seven in Listronotus bonariensis (Kuschel) (Coleoptera: Curculionidae). Fresh insects displayed strong enzyme activity and distinct bands, but dead insects exhibited either no activity or weakened activity with reduced band resolution and increased migration of stained areas. Of ten enzymes investigated, seven showed clear indications of degradation just 1 day postmortem. Polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis of enzymes can be used to evaluate organism viability and has potential for estimating postmortem intervals. We also measured postmortem degradation rates of five M. domestica enzymes by assaying them in solution; these showed constant or gradually declining activity for 28 days postmortem, so live and dead specimens were less easily distinguished. By assaying enzymes in solution, it is possible to develop quick, easily operated tests that can be used outside the laboratory for a variety of quarantine-related purposes.


Rights statement

© The Author(s) 2014. This article is published with open access at


  • English

Does this contain Māori information or data?

  • No


Springer Nature

Journal title

Applied Entomology and Zoology




Phillips, C. B., Iline, I. I., Novoselov, M., & Richards, N. K. (2014). Potential to exploit postmortem enzyme degradation for evaluating arthropod viability. Applied Entomology and Zoology, 49, 421–428.

Usage metrics


    Ref. manager