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1.  Transcriptome Analysis in Cotton Boll Weevil (Anthonomus grandis) and RNA Interference in Insect Pests 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e85079.
Cotton plants are subjected to the attack of several insect pests. In Brazil, the cotton boll weevil, Anthonomus grandis, is the most important cotton pest. The use of insecticidal proteins and gene silencing by interference RNA (RNAi) as techniques for insect control are promising strategies, which has been applied in the last few years. For this insect, there are not much available molecular information on databases. Using 454-pyrosequencing methodology, the transcriptome of all developmental stages of the insect pest, A. grandis, was analyzed. The A. grandis transcriptome analysis resulted in more than 500.000 reads and a data set of high quality 20,841 contigs. After sequence assembly and annotation, around 10,600 contigs had at least one BLAST hit against NCBI non-redundant protein database and 65.7% was similar to Tribolium castaneum sequences. A comparison of A. grandis, Drosophila melanogaster and Bombyx mori protein families’ data showed higher similarity to dipteran than to lepidopteran sequences. Several contigs of genes encoding proteins involved in RNAi mechanism were found. PAZ Domains sequences extracted from the transcriptome showed high similarity and conservation for the most important functional and structural motifs when compared to PAZ Domains from 5 species. Two SID-like contigs were phylogenetically analyzed and grouped with T. castaneum SID-like proteins. No RdRP gene was found. A contig matching chitin synthase 1 was mined from the transcriptome. dsRNA microinjection of a chitin synthase gene to A. grandis female adults resulted in normal oviposition of unviable eggs and malformed alive larvae that were unable to develop in artificial diet. This is the first study that characterizes the transcriptome of the coleopteran, A. grandis. A new and representative transcriptome database for this insect pest is now available. All data support the state of the art of RNAi mechanism in insects.
PMCID: PMC3874031  PMID: 24386449
2.  Multidisciplinary fingerprints: forensic reconstruction of an insect reinvasion 
An unexpected outbreak of boll weevils, Anthonomus grandis, an insect pest of cotton, across the Southern Rolling Plains (SRP) eradication zone of west-central Texas, USA, was detected soon after passage of Tropical Storm Erin through the Winter Garden district to the south on 16 August 2007. The synchrony and broad geographic distribution of the captured weevils suggest that long-distance dispersal was responsible for the reinvasion. We integrated three types of assessment to reconstruct the geographic origin of the immigrants: (i) DNA fingerprinting; (ii) pollen fingerprinting; and (iii) atmospheric trajectory analysis. We hypothesized the boll weevils originated in the Southern Blacklands zone near Cameron, or in the Winter Garden district near Uvalde, the nearest regions with substantial populations. Genetic tests broadly agree that the immigrants originated southeast of the SRP zone, probably in regions represented by Uvalde or Weslaco. The SRP pollen profile from weevils matched that of Uvalde better than that of Cameron. Wind trajectories supported daily wind-aided dispersal of weevils from the Uvalde region to the SRP from 17 to 24 August, but failed to support migration from the Cameron region. Taken together the forensic evidence strongly implicates the Winter Garden district near Uvalde as the source of reinvading boll weevils.
PMCID: PMC2842781  PMID: 19828497
boll weevil; cotton; invasive; population genetics; pollen; atmospheric trajectory
3.  Novel Pink Bollworm Resistance to the Bt Toxin Cry 1Ac: Effects on Mating, Oviposition, Larval Development and Survival 
Bt cotton plants are genetically engineered to produce insecticidal toxins from the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) Berliner (Bacillales: Bacillaceae) bacterium and target key lepidopteran pests. In all previous strains of pink bollworm, Pectinophora gossypiella (Saunders) (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae) selected in the laboratory for resistance to insecticidal Cry1Ac toxin using an artificial diet containing the toxin, resistance to Cry1Ac and to Bt cotton is linked to three cadherin alleles (r1, r2, and r3). In contrast, the BG(4) pink bollworm strain was selected for resistance to Bt cotton by feeding larvae for four days in each of 42 generations on bolls of ‘NuCOTN33B®’ that expressed Cry1Ac toxin. After additional selection for eleven generations on Cry1Ac-incorporated diet, the susceptibility to Cry1Ac, fecundity, egg viability, and mating of this strain (Bt4R) was compared with the unselected Cry1Ac-susceptible parent strain. Some larvae of the Bt4R strain survived on diet containing ≥ 10 µg Cry1Ac per milliliter artificial diet, but none survived on transgenic cotton bolls. In contrast to strains selected exclusively on Cry1Ac diet, some survival of progeny of reciprocal moth crosses of Bt4R resistant and Bt-susceptible strains occurred on Cry1Ac-treated diet, suggesting differences in levels of dominance. The Bt4R resistant strain does not have the r1, r2, or r3 mutant cadherin genes as do all previous strains of pink bollworm selected on Cry1Ac-treated artificial diet. The combined results suggest a mechanism of resistance to Cry1Ac that is different from previously described cadherin mutations.
PMCID: PMC3011851  PMID: 19613847
Pectinophora gossypiella; Bacillus thuringiensis; transgenic cotton
4.  Similar Genetic Basis of Resistance to Bt Toxin Cry1Ac in Boll-Selected and Diet-Selected Strains of Pink Bollworm 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e35658.
Genetically engineered cotton and corn plants producing insecticidal Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxins kill some key insect pests. Yet, evolution of resistance by pests threatens long-term insect control by these transgenic Bt crops. We compared the genetic basis of resistance to Bt toxin Cry1Ac in two independently derived, laboratory-selected strains of a major cotton pest, the pink bollworm (Pectinophora gossypiella [Saunders]). The Arizona pooled resistant strain (AZP-R) was started with pink bollworm from 10 field populations and selected with Cry1Ac in diet. The Bt4R resistant strain was started with a long-term susceptible laboratory strain and selected first with Bt cotton bolls and later with Cry1Ac in diet. Previous work showed that AZP-R had three recessive mutations (r1, r2, and r3) in the pink bollworm cadherin gene (PgCad1) linked with resistance to Cry1Ac and Bt cotton producing Cry1Ac. Here we report that inheritance of resistance to a diagnostic concentration of Cry1Ac was recessive in Bt4R. In interstrain complementation tests for allelism, F1 progeny from crosses between AZP-R and Bt4R were resistant to Cry1Ac, indicating a shared resistance locus in the two strains. Molecular analysis of the Bt4R cadherin gene identified a novel 15-bp deletion (r4) predicted to cause the loss of five amino acids upstream of the Cry1Ac-binding region of the cadherin protein. Four recessive mutations in PgCad1 are now implicated in resistance in five different strains, showing that mutations in cadherin are the primary mechanism of resistance to Cry1Ac in laboratory-selected strains of pink bollworm from Arizona.
PMCID: PMC3329465  PMID: 22530065
5.  Control of Resistant Pink Bollworm (Pectinophora gossypiella) by Transgenic Cotton That Produces Bacillus thuringiensis Toxin Cry2Ab 
Crops genetically engineered to produce Bacillus thuringiensis toxins for insect control can reduce use of conventional insecticides, but insect resistance could limit the success of this technology. The first generation of transgenic cotton with B. thuringiensis produces a single toxin, Cry1Ac, that is highly effective against susceptible larvae of pink bollworm (Pectinophora gossypiella), a major cotton pest. To counter potential problems with resistance, second-generation transgenic cotton that produces B. thuringiensis toxin Cry2Ab alone or in combination with Cry1Ac has been developed. In greenhouse bioassays, a pink bollworm strain selected in the laboratory for resistance to Cry1Ac survived equally well on transgenic cotton with Cry1Ac and on cotton without Cry1Ac. In contrast, Cry1Ac-resistant pink bollworm had little or no survival on second-generation transgenic cotton with Cry2Ab alone or with Cry1Ac plus Cry2Ab. Artificial diet bioassays showed that resistance to Cry1Ac did not confer strong cross-resistance to Cry2Aa. Strains with >90% larval survival on diet with 10 μg of Cry1Ac per ml showed 0% survival on diet with 3.2 or 10 μg of Cry2Aa per ml. However, the average survival of larvae fed a diet with 1 μg of Cry2Aa per ml was higher for Cry1Ac-resistant strains (2 to 10%) than for susceptible strains (0%). If plants with Cry1Ac plus Cry2Ab are deployed while genes that confer resistance to each of these toxins are rare, and if the inheritance of resistance to both toxins is recessive, the efficacy of transgenic cotton might be greatly extended.
PMCID: PMC124036  PMID: 12147473
6.  LED-Induced fluorescence and image analysis to detect stink bug damage in cotton bolls 
Stink bugs represent a major agricultural pest complex attacking more than 200 wild and cultivated plants, including cotton in the southeastern US. Stink bug feeding on developing cotton bolls will cause boll abortion or lint staining and thus reduced yield and lint value. Current methods for stink bug detection involve manual harvesting and cracking open of a sizable number of immature cotton bolls for visual inspection. This process is cumbersome, time consuming, and requires a moderate level of experience to obtain accurate estimates. To improve detection of stink bug feeding, we present here a method based on fluorescent imaging and subsequent image analyses to determine the likelihood of stink bug damage in cotton bolls.
Damage to different structures of cotton bolls including lint and carpal wall can be observed under blue LED-induced fluorescence. Generally speaking, damaged regions fluoresce green, whereas non-damaged regions with chlorophyll fluoresce red. However, similar fluorescence emission is also observable on cotton bolls that have not been fed upon by stink bugs. Criteria based on fluorescent intensity and the size of the fluorescent spot allow to differentiate between true positives (fluorescent regions associated with stink bug feeding) and false positives (fluorescent regions due to other causes). We found a detection rates with two combined criteria of 87% for true-positive marks and of 8% for false-positive marks.
The imaging technique presented herein gives rise to a possible detection apparatus where a cotton boll is imaged in the field and images processed by software. The unique fluorescent signature left by stink bugs can be used to determine with high probability if a cotton boll has been punctured by a stink bug. We believe this technique, when integrated in a suitable device, could be used for more accurate detection in the field and allow for more optimized application of pest control.
PMCID: PMC3663817  PMID: 23421982
7.  Stink Bug Feeding Induces Fluorescence in Developing Cotton Bolls 
Stink bugs (Hemiptera: Pentatomidae) comprise a critically important insect pest complex affecting 12 major crops worldwide including cotton. In the US, stink bug damage to developing cotton bolls causes boll abscission, lint staining, reduced fiber quality, and reduced yields with estimated losses ranging from 10 to 60 million dollars annually. Unfortunately, scouting for stink bug damage in the field is laborious and excessively time consuming. To improve scouting accuracy and efficiency, we investigated fluorescence changes in cotton boll tissues as a result of stink bug feeding.
Fluorescent imaging under long-wave ultraviolet light showed that stink bug-damaged lint, the inner carpal wall, and the outside of the boll emitted strong blue-green fluorescence in a circular region near the puncture wound, whereas undamaged tissue emissions occurred at different wavelengths; the much weaker emission of undamaged tissue was dominated by chlorophyll fluorescence. We further characterized the optimum emission and excitation spectra to distinguish between stink bug damaged bolls from undamaged bolls.
The observed characteristic fluorescence peaks associated with stink bug damage give rise to a fluorescence-based method to rapidly distinguish between undamaged and stink bug damaged cotton bolls. Based on the fluorescent fingerprint, we envision a fluorescence reflectance imaging or a fluorescence ratiometric device to assist pest management professionals with rapidly determining the extent of stink bug damage in a cotton field.
PMCID: PMC3171297  PMID: 21816078
8.  A Comprehensive Assessment of the Effects of Bt Cotton on Coleomegilla maculata Demonstrates No Detrimental Effects by Cry1Ac and Cry2Ab 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(7):e22185.
The ladybird beetle, Coleomegilla maculata (DeGeer), is a common and abundant predator in many cropping systems. Its larvae and adults are predaceous, feeding on aphids, thrips, lepidopteran larvae and plant tissues, such as pollen. Therefore, this species is exposed to insecticidal proteins expressed in insect-resistant, genetically engineered cotton expressing Cry proteins derived from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). A tritrophic bioassay was conduced to evaluate the potential impact of Cry2Ab- and Cry1Ac-expressing cotton on fitness parameters of C. maculata using Bt-susceptible and -resistant larvae of Trichoplusia ni as prey. Coleomegilla maculata survival, development time, adult weight and fecundity were not different when they were fed with resistant T. ni larvae reared on either Bt or control cotton. To ensure that C. maculata were not sensitive to the tested Cry toxins independent from the plant background and to add certainty to the hazard assessment, C. maculata larvae were fed artificial diet incorporated with Cry2Ab, Cry1Ac or both at >10 times higher concentrations than in cotton tissue. Artificial diet containing E-64 was included as a positive control. No differences were detected in any life-table parameters between Cry protein-containing diet treatments and the control diet. In contrast, larvae of C. maculata fed the E-64 could not develop to the pupal stage and the 7-d larval weight was significantly negatively affected. In both feeding assays, the stability and bioactivity of Cry proteins in the food sources were confirmed by ELISA and sensitive-insect bioassays. Our results show that C. maculata is not affected by Bt cotton and is not sensitive to Cry2Ab and Cry1Ac at concentrations exceeding the levels in Bt cotton, thus demonstrating that Bt cotton will pose a negligible risk to C. maculata. More importantly, this study demonstrates a comprehensive system for assessing the risk of genetically modified plants on non-target organisms.
PMCID: PMC3134477  PMID: 21765949
9.  Early Warning of Cotton Bollworm Resistance Associated with Intensive Planting of Bt Cotton in China 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e22874.
Transgenic crops producing Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxins kill some key insect pests, but evolution of resistance by pests can reduce their efficacy. The predominant strategy for delaying pest resistance to Bt crops requires refuges of non-Bt host plants to promote survival of susceptible pests. To delay pest resistance to transgenic cotton producing Bt toxin Cry1Ac, farmers in the United States and Australia planted refuges of non-Bt cotton, while farmers in China have relied on “natural” refuges of non-Bt host plants other than cotton. Here we report data from a 2010 survey showing field-evolved resistance to Cry1Ac of the major target pest, cotton bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera), in northern China. Laboratory bioassay results show that susceptibility to Cry1Ac was significantly lower in 13 field populations from northern China, where Bt cotton has been planted intensively, than in two populations from sites in northwestern China where exposure to Bt cotton has been limited. Susceptibility to Bt toxin Cry2Ab did not differ between northern and northwestern China, demonstrating that resistance to Cry1Ac did not cause cross-resistance to Cry2Ab, and implying that resistance to Cry1Ac in northern China is a specific adaptation caused by exposure to this toxin in Bt cotton. Despite the resistance detected in laboratory bioassays, control failures of Bt cotton have not been reported in China. This early warning may spur proactive countermeasures, including a switch to transgenic cotton producing two or more toxins distinct from Cry1A toxins.
PMCID: PMC3153483  PMID: 21857961
10.  The Halo Effect: Suppression of Pink Bollworm on Non-Bt Cotton by Bt Cotton in China 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e42004.
In some previously reported cases, transgenic crops producing insecticidal proteins from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) have suppressed insect pests not only in fields planted with such crops, but also regionally on host plants that do not produce Bt toxins. Here we used 16 years of field data to determine if Bt cotton caused this “halo effect” against pink bollworm (Pectinophora gossypiella) in six provinces of the Yangtze River Valley of China. In this region, the percentage of cotton hectares planted with Bt cotton increased from 9% in 2000 to 94% in 2009 and 2010. We found that Bt cotton significantly decreased the population density of pink bollworm on non-Bt cotton, with net decreases of 91% for eggs and 95% for larvae on non-Bt cotton after 11 years of Bt cotton use. Insecticide sprays targeting pink bollworm and cotton bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera) decreased by 69%. Previously reported evidence of the early stages of evolution of pink bollworm resistance to Bt cotton in China has raised concerns that if unchecked, such resistance could eventually diminish or eliminate the benefits of Bt cotton. The results reported here suggest that it might be possible to find a percentage of Bt cotton lower than the current level that causes sufficient regional pest suppression and reduces the risk of resistance.
PMCID: PMC3407057  PMID: 22848685
11.  Cadherin binding is not a limiting step for Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. israelensis Cry4Ba toxicity to Aedes aegypti larvae 
The Biochemical journal  2012;443(3):711-717.
Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. israelensis produces three Cry toxins (Cry4Aa, Cry4Ba and Cry11Aa) that are active against Aedes aegypti larvae. The identification of the rate-limiting binding steps of Cry toxins that are used for insect control in the field, such as those of B. thuringiensis subsp. israelensis, should provide targets for improving insecticides against important insect pests. Previous studies showed that Cry11Aa binds to cadherin receptor fragment CR7–11 (cadherin repeats 7–11) with high affinity. Binding to cadherin has been proposed to facilitate Cry toxin oligomer formation. In the present study, we show that Cry4Ba binds to CR7–11 with 9-fold lower binding affinity compared with Cry11Aa. Oligomerization assays showed that Cry4Ba is capable of forming oligomers when proteolytically activated in vitro in the absence of the CR7–11 fragment in contrast with Cry11Aa that formed oligomers only in the presence of CR7–11. Pore-formation assays in planar lipid bilayers showed that Cry4Ba oligomers were proficient in opening ion channels. Finally, silencing the cadherin gene by dsRNA (double-stranded RNA) showed that silenced larvae were more tolerant to Cry11Aa in contrast with Cry4Ba, which showed similar toxic levels to those of control larvae. These findings show that cadherin binding is not a limiting step for Cry4Ba toxicity to A. aegypti larvae.
PMCID: PMC3686486  PMID: 22329749
Aedes aegypti; Bacillus thuringiensis; cadherin; Cry toxin; pore-forming toxin; receptor binding
12.  Increased Frequency of Pink Bollworm Resistance to Bt Toxin Cry1Ac in China 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e29975.
Transgenic crops producing insecticidal proteins from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) kill some key insect pests, but evolution of resistance by pests can reduce their efficacy. The main approach for delaying pest adaptation to Bt crops uses non-Bt host plants as “refuges” to increase survival of susceptible pests. To delay evolution of pest resistance to transgenic cotton producing Bt toxin Cry1Ac, the United States and some other countries have required refuges of non-Bt cotton, while farmers in China have relied on “natural” refuges of non-Bt host plants other than cotton. The “natural” refuge strategy focuses on cotton bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera), the primary target of Bt cotton in China that attacks many crops, but it does not apply to another major pest, pink bollworm (Pectinophora gossypiella), which feeds almost entirely on cotton in China. Here we report data showing field-evolved resistance to Cry1Ac by pink bollworm in the Yangtze River Valley of China. Laboratory bioassay data from 51 field-derived strains show that the susceptibility to Cry1Ac was significantly lower during 2008 to 2010 than 2005 to 2007. The percentage of field populations yielding one or more survivors at a diagnostic concentration of Cry1Ac increased from 0% in 2005–2007 to 56% in 2008–2010. However, the median survival at the diagnostic concentration was only 1.6% from 2008 to 2010 and failure of Bt cotton to control pink bollworm has not been reported in China. The early detection of resistance reported here may promote proactive countermeasures, such as a switch to transgenic cotton producing toxins distinct from Cry1A toxins, increased planting of non-Bt cotton, and integration of other management tactics together with Bt cotton.
PMCID: PMC3251611  PMID: 22238687
13.  Non-Recessive Bt Toxin Resistance Conferred by an Intracellular Cadherin Mutation in Field-Selected Populations of Cotton Bollworm 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e53418.
Transgenic crops producing Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxins have been planted widely to control insect pests, yet evolution of resistance by the pests can reduce the benefits of this approach. Recessive mutations in the extracellular domain of toxin-binding cadherin proteins that confer resistance to Bt toxin Cry1Ac by disrupting toxin binding have been reported previously in three major lepidopteran pests, including the cotton bollworm, Helicoverpa armigera. Here we report a novel allele from cotton bollworm with a deletion in the intracellular domain of cadherin that is genetically linked with non-recessive resistance to Cry1Ac. We discovered this allele in each of three field-selected populations we screened from northern China where Bt cotton producing Cry1Ac has been grown intensively. We expressed four types of cadherin alleles in heterologous cell cultures: susceptible, resistant with the intracellular domain mutation, and two complementary chimeric alleles with and without the mutation. Cells transfected with each of the four cadherin alleles bound Cry1Ac and were killed by Cry1Ac. However, relative to cells transfected with either the susceptible allele or the chimeric allele lacking the intracellular domain mutation, cells transfected with the resistant allele or the chimeric allele containing the intracellular domain mutation were less susceptible to Cry1Ac. These results suggest that the intracellular domain of cadherin is involved in post-binding events that affect toxicity of Cry1Ac. This evidence is consistent with the vital role of the intracellular region of cadherin proposed by the cell signaling model of the mode of action of Bt toxins. Considered together with previously reported data, the results suggest that both pore formation and cell signaling pathways contribute to the efficacy of Bt toxins.
PMCID: PMC3532162  PMID: 23285292
14.  Strategies to improve the insecticidal activity of Cry toxins from Bacillus thuringiensis. 
Peptides  2008;30(3):589-595.
Bacillus thuringiensis Cry toxins have been widely used in the control of insect pests either as spray products or expressed in transgenic crops. These proteins are pore forming toxins with a complex mechanism of action that involves the sequential interaction with several toxin-receptors. Cry toxins are specific against susceptible larvae and although they are often highly effective, some insect pests are not affected by them or show low susceptibility. In addition, the development of resistance threatens their effectiveness, so strategies to cope with all these problems are necessary. In this review we will discuss and compare the different strategies that have been used to improve insecticidal activity of Cry toxins. The activity of Cry toxins can be enhanced by using additional proteins in the bioassay like serine protease inhibitors, chitinases, Cyt toxins, or a fragment of cadherin receptor containing a toxin-binding site. On the other hand, different modifications performed in the toxin gene such as site directed mutagenesis, introduction of cleavage sites in specific regions of the protein, and deletion of small fragments from the amino-terminal region lead to improved toxicity or overcome resistance, representing interesting alternatives for insect pest control.
PMCID: PMC2692940  PMID: 18773932
15.  Correspondence of High Levels of Beta-Exotoxin I and the Presence of cry1B in Bacillus thuringiensis 
Examination of 640 natural isolates of Bacillus thuringiensis showed that the 58 strains (9%) whose supernatants were toxic to Anthonomus grandis (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) produced between 10 and 175 μg of β-exotoxin I per ml. We also found that 55 (46%) of a sample of 118 strains whose culture supernatants were not toxic to A. grandis nevertheless produced between 2 and 5 μg/ml. However, these amounts of β-exotoxin I were below the threshold for detectable toxicity against this insect species. Secretion of large amounts of β-exotoxin I was strongly associated with the presence of cry1B and vip2 genes in the 640 natural B. thuringiensis isolates studied. We concluded that strains carrying cry1B and vip2 genes also possess, on the same plasmid, genetic determinants necessary to promote high levels of production of β-exotoxin I.
PMCID: PMC124084  PMID: 12200263
16.  Interaction of Bacillus thuringiensis Toxins with Larval Midgut Binding Sites of Helicoverpa armigera (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) 
In 1996, Bt-cotton (cotton expressing a Bacillus thuringiensis toxin gene) expressing the Cry1Ac protein was commercially introduced to control cotton pests. A threat to this first generation of transgenic cotton is the evolution of resistance by the insects. Second-generation Bt-cotton has been developed with either new B. thuringiensis genes or with a combination of cry genes. However, one requirement for the “stacked” gene strategy to work is that the stacked toxins bind to different binding sites. In the present study, the binding of 125I-labeled Cry1Ab protein (125I-Cry1Ab) and 125I-Cry1Ac to brush border membrane vesicles (BBMV) of Helicoverpa armigera was analyzed in competition experiments with 11 nonlabeled Cry proteins. The results indicate that Cry1Aa, Cry1Ab, and Cry1Ac competed for common binding sites. No other Cry proteins tested competed for either 125I-Cry1Ab or 125I-Cry1Ac binding, except Cry1Ja, which competed only at the highest concentrations used. Furthermore, BBMV from four H. armigera populations were also tested with 125I-Cry1Ac and Cry1Ab to check the influence of the insect population on the binding results. Finally, the inhibitory effect of selected sugars and lectins was also determined. 125I-Cry1Ac binding was strongly inhibited by N-acetylgalactosamine, sialic acid, and concanavalin A and moderately inhibited by soybean agglutinin. In contrast, 125I-Cry1Ab binding was only significantly inhibited by concanavalin A. These results show that Cry1Ac and Cry1Ab use different epitopes for binding to BBMV.
PMCID: PMC368413  PMID: 15006756
17.  Role of phermones and kairmones for insect suppression systems and their possible health and environmental impacts. 
Insects produce pheromones as a chemical communication system to facilitate reproduction. These highly active chemical attractants have been synthesized for some of the most important insect pests, including the boll weevil, gypsy moth, codling moth, tobacco budworm, European corn borer, and several bark beetles. While none of the synthetic sex attractants have yet been developed for use in insect control, they offer opportunities for the future both as control agents and to greatly improved insect detection. Investigations are underway on insect trapping systems employing the phermones and on air permeation techniques to disrupt insect reproduction. The pheromones are generally highly species-specific and are not likely to pose hazards to nontarget organisms in the environment. Toxicological studies indicate that they are low in toxicity to mammals, birds, and fish, but adequate toxicological data are necessary before they can be registered for use in insect control. Another new class of compounds called kaironomes has been discovered. These chemicals are involved in the detection of hosts or prey by insect parasites and predators. Kairomones may prove useful in manipulating natural or released biological agents for more effective biological control of insect pests. No information is yet available on the toxicology of these chemicals.
PMCID: PMC1475112  PMID: 789061
18.  A 2-Year Field Study Shows Little Evidence That the Long-Term Planting of Transgenic Insect-Resistant Cotton Affects the Community Structure of Soil Nematodes 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e61670.
Transgenic insect-resistant cotton has been released into the environment for more than a decade in China to effectively control the cotton bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera) and other Lepidoptera. Because of concerns about undesirable ecological side-effects of transgenic crops, it is important to monitor the potential environmental impact of transgenic insect-resistant cotton after commercial release. Our 2-year study included 1 cotton field where non-transgenic cotton had been planted continuously and 2 other cotton fields where transgenic insect-resistant cotton had been planted for different lengths of time since 1997 and since 2002. In 2 consecutive years (2009 and 2010), we took soil samples from 3 cotton fields at 4 different growth stages (seedling, budding, boll-forming and boll-opening stages), collected soil nematodes from soil with the sugar flotation and centrifugation method and identified the soil nematodes to the genus level. The generic composition, individual densities and diversity indices of the soil nematodes did not differ significantly between the 2 transgenic cotton fields and the non-transgenic cotton field, but significant seasonal variation was found in the individual densities of the principal trophic groups and in the diversity indices of the nematodes in all 3 cotton fields. The study used a comparative perspective to monitor the impact of transgenic insect-resistant cotton grown in typical ‘real world’ conditions. The results of the study suggested that more than 10 years of cultivation of transgenic insect-resistant cotton had no significant effects–adverse or otherwise–on soil nematodes. This study provides a theoretical basis for ongoing environmental impact monitoring of transgenic plants.
PMCID: PMC3628874  PMID: 23613899
19.  Mutated Cadherin Alleles from a Field Population of Helicoverpa armigera Confer Resistance to Bacillus thuringiensis Toxin Cry1Ac▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2007;73(21):6939-6944.
The cotton bollworm Helicoverpa armigera is the major insect pest targeted by cotton genetically engineered to produce the Bacillus thuringiensis toxin (transgenic Bt cotton) in the Old World. The evolution of this pest's resistance to B. thuringiensis toxins is the main threat to the long-term effectiveness of transgenic Bt cotton. A deletion mutation allele (r1) of a cadherin gene (Ha_BtR) was previously identified as genetically linked with Cry1Ac resistance in a laboratory-selected strain of H. armigera. Using a biphasic screen strategy, we successfully trapped two new cadherin alleles (r2 and r3) associated with Cry1Ac resistance from a field population of H. armigera collected from the Yellow River cotton area of China in 2005. The r2 and r3 alleles, respectively, were created by inserting the long terminal repeat of a retrotransposon (designated HaRT1) and the intact HaRT1 retrotransposon at the same position in exon 8 of Ha_BtR, which results in a truncated cadherin containing only two ectodomain repeats in the N terminus of Ha_BtR. This is the first time that the B. thuringiensis resistance alleles of a target insect of Bt crops have been successfully detected in the open field. This study also demonstrated that bollworm larvae carrying two resistance alleles can complete development on Bt cotton. The cadherin locus should be an important target for intensive DNA-based screening of field populations of H. armigera.
PMCID: PMC2074965  PMID: 17827322
20.  Dual Resistance to Bacillus thuringiensis Cry1Ac and Cry2Aa Toxins in Heliothis virescens Suggests Multiple Mechanisms of Resistance 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2003;69(10):5898-5906.
One strategy for delaying evolution of resistance to Bacillus thuringiensis crystal (Cry) endotoxins is the production of multiple Cry toxins in each transgenic plant (gene stacking). This strategy relies upon the assumption that simultaneous evolution of resistance to toxins that have different modes of action will be difficult for insect pests. In B. thuringiensis-transgenic (Bt) cotton, production of both Cry1Ac and Cry2Ab has been proposed to delay resistance of Heliothis virescens (tobacco budworm). After previous laboratory selection with Cry1Ac, H. virescens strains CXC and KCBhyb developed high levels of cross-resistance not only to toxins similar to Cry1Ac but also to Cry2Aa. We studied the role of toxin binding alteration in resistance and cross-resistance with the CXC and KCBhyb strains. In toxin binding experiments, Cry1A and Cry2Aa toxins bound to brush border membrane vesicles from CXC, but binding of Cry1Aa was reduced for the KCBhyb strain compared to susceptible insects. Since Cry1Aa and Cry2Aa do not share binding proteins in H. virescens, our results suggest occurrence of at least two mechanisms of resistance in KCBhyb insects, one of them related to reduction of Cry1Aa toxin binding. Cry1Ac bound irreversibly to brush border membrane vesicles (BBMV) from YDK, CXC, and KCBhyb larvae, suggesting that Cry1Ac insertion was unaffected. These results highlight the genetic potential of H. virescens to become resistant to distinct Cry toxins simultaneously and may question the effectiveness of gene stacking in delaying evolution of resistance.
PMCID: PMC201244  PMID: 14532042
21.  Evolution of Bacillus thuringiensis Cry toxins insecticidal activity 
Microbial biotechnology  2013;6(1):17-26.
Insecticidal Cry proteins produced by Bacillus thuringiensis are use worldwide in transgenic crops for efficient pest control. Among the family of Cry toxins, the three domain Cry family is the better characterized regarding their natural evolution leading to a large number of Cry proteins with similar structure, mode of action but different insect specificity. Also, this group is the better characterized regarding the study of their mode of action and the molecular basis of insect specificity. In this review we discuss how Cry toxins have evolved insect specificity in nature and analyse several cases of improvement of Cry toxin action by genetic engineering, some of these examples are currently used in transgenic crops. We believe that the success in the improvement of insecticidal activity by genetic evolution of Cry toxins will depend on the knowledge of the rate-limiting steps of Cry toxicity in different insect pests, the mapping of the specificity binding regions in the Cry toxins, as well as the improvement of mutagenesis strategies and selection procedures.
PMCID: PMC3815381  PMID: 22463726
22.  Dominant Negative Mutants of Bacillus thuringiensis Cry1Ab Toxin Function as Anti-Toxins: Demonstration of the Role of Oligomerization in Toxicity 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(5):e5545.
Bacillus thuringiensis Cry toxins, that are used worldwide in insect control, kill insects by a mechanism that depends on their ability to form oligomeric pores that insert into the insect-midgut cells. These toxins are being used worldwide in transgenic plants or spray to control insect pests in agriculture. However, a major concern has been the possible effects of these insecticidal proteins on non-target organisms mainly in ecosystems adjacent to agricultural fields.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We isolated and characterized 11 non-toxic mutants of Cry1Ab toxin affected in different steps of the mechanism of action namely binding to receptors, oligomerization and pore-formation. These mutant toxins were analyzed for their capacity to block wild type toxin activity, presenting a dominant negative phenotype. The dominant negative phenotype was analyzed at two levels, in vivo by toxicity bioassays against susceptible Manduca sexta larvae and in vitro by pore formation activity in black lipid bilayers. We demonstrate that some mutations located in helix α-4 completely block the wild type toxin activity at sub-stoichiometric level confirming a dominant negative phenotype, thereby functioning as potent antitoxins.
This is the first reported case of a Cry toxin dominant inhibitor. These data demonstrate that oligomerization is a fundamental step in Cry toxin action and represent a potential mechanism to protect special ecosystems from the possible effect of Cry toxins on non-target organisms.
PMCID: PMC2678262  PMID: 19440244
23.  Diversity of Bacillus thuringiensis Strains from Latin America with Insecticidal Activity against Different Mosquito Species 
The characterization of selected Bacillus thuringiensis strains isolated from different Latin America countries is presented. Characterization was based on their insecticidal activity against Aedes aegypti, Culex quinquefasciatus, and Anopheles albimanus larvae, scanning electron microscopy, sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, and plasmid profiles as well as PCR analysis using novel general and specific primers for cry and cyt genes encoding proteins active against mosquitoes (cyt1, cyt2, cry2, cry4A, cry4B, cry10, cry11, cry17, cry19, cry24, cry25, cry27, cry29, cry30, cry32, cry39, and cry40). Strains LBIT315, LBIT348, and IB604 showed threefold higher mosquitocidal activity against A. aegypti and C. quinquefasciatus larvae than B. thuringiensis subsp. israelensis and displayed high similarities with the B. thuringiensis subsp. israelensis used in this study with regard to protein and plasmid profiles and the presence of cry genes. Strain 147-8906 has activity against A. aegypti similar to that of B. thuringiensis subsp. israelensis but has different protein and plasmid profiles. This strain, harboring cry11, cry30, cyt1, and cyt2 genes, could be relevant for future resistance management interventions. Finally, the PCR screening strategy presented here led us to identify a putative novel cry11B gene.
PMCID: PMC194983  PMID: 12957913
24.  Dominant resistance to Bt cotton and minor cross-resistance to Bt toxin Cry2Ab in cotton bollworm from China 
Evolutionary Applications  2013;6(8):1222-1235.
Evolution of resistance by insect pests threatens the long-term benefits of transgenic crops that produce insecticidal proteins from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). Previous work has detected increases in the frequency of resistance to Bt toxin Cry1Ac in populations of cotton bollworm, Helicoverpa armigera, from northern China where Bt cotton producing Cry1Ac has been grown extensively for more than a decade. Confirming that trend, we report evidence from 2011 showing that the percentage of individuals resistant to a diagnostic concentration of Cry1Ac was significantly higher in two populations from different provinces of northern China (1.4% and 2.3%) compared with previously tested susceptible field populations (0%). We isolated two resistant strains: one from each of the two field-selected populations. Relative to a susceptible strain, the two strains had 460- and 1200-fold resistance to Cry1Ac, respectively. Both strains had dominant resistance to a diagnostic concentration of Cry1Ac in diet and to Bt cotton leaves containing Cry1Ac. Both strains had low, but significant cross-resistance to Cry2Ab (4.2- and 5.9-fold), which is used widely as the second toxin in two-toxin Bt cotton. Compared with resistance in other strains of H. armigera, the resistance in the two strains characterized here may be especially difficult to suppress.
PMCID: PMC3901552  PMID: 24478804
dominant resistance; resistance evolution; resistance management
25.  Assessing the role of non-cotton refuges in delaying Helicoverpa armigera resistance to Bt cotton in West Africa 
Evolutionary Applications  2011;5(1):53-65.
Non-cotton host plants without Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxins can provide refuges that delay resistance to Bt cotton in polyphagous insect pests. It has proven difficult, however, to determine the effective contribution of such refuges and their role in delaying resistance evolution. Here, we used biogeochemical markers to quantify movement of Helicoverpa armigera moths from non-cotton hosts to cotton fields in three agricultural landscapes of the West African cotton belt (Cameroon) where Bt cotton was absent. We show that the contribution of non-cotton hosts as a source of moths was spatially and temporally variable, but at least equivalent to a 7.5% sprayed refuge of non-Bt cotton. Simulation models incorporating H. armigera biological parameters, however, indicate that planting non-Bt cotton refuges may be needed to significantly delay resistance to cotton producing the toxins Cry1Ac and Cry2Ab. Specifically, when the concentration of one toxin (here Cry1Ac) declined seasonally, resistance to Bt cotton often occurred rapidly in simulations where refuges of non-Bt cotton were rare and resistance to Cry2Ab was non-recessive, because resistance was essentially driven by one toxin (here Cry2Ab). The use of biogeochemical markers to quantify insect movement can provide a valuable tool to evaluate the role of non-cotton refuges in delaying the evolution of H. armigera resistance to Bt cotton.
PMCID: PMC3353336
Bacillus thuringiensis; biogeochemical markers; insect resistance management; genetically engineered crops; polyphagous pest; Bt cotton; refuge strategy

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