The insect repellent DEET (N,N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide) increases the synthesis of glutathione S-transferase in cultured mosquito cells

Vanessa J. Hellestad, Bruce A. Witthuhn, Ann M. Fallon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


DEET (N,N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide) is the active ingredient used in many commonly used insect repellents, but its mode of action remains poorly understood. Efforts to identify properties that could lead to the development of more effective active ingredients have distinguished among DEET's repellent, deterrent, and insecticidal activities. We used an Aedes albopictus mosquito cell line to evaluate DEET's toxicological properties in the absence of sensory input mediated by the olfactory system. When cells were treated with DEET and labeled with [35S]methionine/cysteine, a single 25-kDa protein was induced, relative to other proteins, on SDS-polyacrylamide gels. The 25-kDa band from DEET-treated cells was enriched in peptides corresponding to glutathione S-transferase D10 and/or theta in the Aedes aegypti genome. Consistent with the increased expression of the labeled protein, DEET-treated cells had increased glutathione S-transferase activity, and the radiolabeled band bound to Sepharose 4B containing reduced glutathione. By analyzing partial tryptic digests, we established that DEET induces the homolog of A. aegypti glutathione S-transferase, class theta, corresponding to protein XP-001658009.1 in the NCBI database. This specific effect of DEET at the subcellular level suggests that DEET induces physiological responses that extend beyond recognition by the peripheral olfactory system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)149-157
Number of pages9
JournalCell Biology and Toxicology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments This work was supported by a University of Minnesota College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences UROP (Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program) grant to VJH and by the University of Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station, St. Paul, MN. Data analyses were done through the University of Minnesota Supercomputing Institute.


  • Aedes albopictus
  • Cell line
  • DEET
  • Glutathione S-transferase
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Proteomics


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