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New bacteria toxins against resistant insect pests

This release is available in German.

Toxins from Bacillus thuringiensis bacteria (Bt toxins) are used in organic and conventional farming to manage pest insects. Sprayed as pesticides or produced in genetically modified plants, Bt toxins, used in pest control since 1938, minimize herbivory in crops, such as vegetables, maize or cotton. Since 1996, Bt producing transgenic crops have been grown, which successfully control pests like the European corn borer, the tobacco budworm, the Western corn rootworm, and the cotton bollworm. Over the years, Bt resistant insects have emerged in organic and conventional farming. Scientists have therefore modified the molecular structure of two Bt toxins, Cry1Ab and Cry1Ac, in order to overcome resistance. The novel toxins, Cry1AbMod and Cry1AcMod, are effective against five resistant insect species, such as the diamondback moth, the cotton bollworm, and the European corn borer. Cry1AbMod and Cry1AcMod can be used alone or in combination with other Bt toxins for plant protection.

New insights into the mechanisms of action of Cry1Ab and Cry1Ac served as the basis for development of the modified Bt toxins. The primary question had been why the Cry proteins, which naturally occur in B. thuringiensis, have such a resoundingly toxic effect on many different herbivorous insects. Researchers had previously found a protein in the caterpillars' midgut that binds Bt toxins with fateful consequences for the insects, because binding the toxins causes the gut cells to die. This protein is one of the many types of cadherin proteins in the cell. Mutations of a specific cadherin can make the caterpillars resistant against the toxins.

"When we studied the new Bt toxins in twelve resistant and non-resistant strains of five major pest species, the r

Contact: David G. Heckel

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New bacteria toxins against resistant insect pests
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