Bacillus thuringiensis is the most effective microbial control agent for controlling numerous species from different insect orders. The main threat for the long term use of B. thuringiensis in pest control is the ability of insects to develop resistance. Thus, the identification of insect genes involved in conferring resistance is of paramount importance. A colony of Spodoptera exigua (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) was selected for 15 years in the laboratory for resistance to Xentari (TM), a B. thuringiensis-based insecticide, reaching a final resistance level of greater than 1,000-fold. Around 600 midgut ESTs were analyzed by DNA-macroarray in order to find differences in midgut gene expression between susceptible and resistant insects. Among the differentially expressed genes, repat and arylphorin were identified and their increased expression was correlated with B. thuringiensis resistance. We also found overlap among genes that were constitutively over-expressed in resistant insects with genes that were up-regulated in susceptible insects after exposure to Xentari (TM), suggesting a permanent activation of the response to Xentari (TM) in resistant insects. Increased aminopeptidase activity in the lumen of resistant insects in the absence of exposure to Xentari (TM) corroborated the hypothesis of permanent activation of response genes. Increase in midgut proliferation has been proposed as a mechanism of response to pathogens in the adult from several insect species. Analysis of S. exigua larvae revealed that midgut proliferation was neither increased in resistant insects nor induced by exposure of susceptible larvae to Xentari (TM), suggesting that mechanisms other than midgut proliferation are involved in the response to B. thuringiensis by S. exigua larvae.
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