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Transgenic Res. 2002 Apr;11(2):185-98.

Avidin expressed in transgenic tobacco leaves confers resistance to two noctuid pests, Helicoverpa armigera and Spodoptera litura.

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  • 1The Horticulture and Food Research Institute of New Zealand Limited, Mt Albert Research Center, Auckland.


Fertile transgenic tobacco plants with leaves expressing avidin in the vacuole have been produced and shown to halt growth and cause mortality in larvae of two noctuid lepidopterans, Helicoverpa armigera and Spodoptera litura. Late first instar H. armigera larvae and neonate (< 12-h-old) S. litura larvae placed on leaves excised from T0 tobacco expressing avidin at 3.1-4.6 microM (micromoles/kg of fresh leaf tissue) had very poor growth over their first 8 days on the leaves, significant numbers had died by days 11 or 12 and all were dead by day 22 (H. armigera) or day 25 (S. litura). Similar results were obtained when late first instar H. armigera larvae were placed on leaves from T1 plants expressing avidin at six different average concentrations, ranging from 3.7 to 17.3 microM. Two larvae on the lowest expressing leaves survived to pupation, but there was total mortality among the other groups and no relationship between avidin concentration and the effects on the larvae. Synergistic effects between avidin-expressing tobacco plants and a purified Bt toxin, Cry1Ba, were demonstrated. Late instar H. armigera larvae fed with leaves from T2 plants expressing avidin at average concentrations of either <5.3 or > 12.9 microM, and painted with Cry1Ba protein at a rate equivalent to an expression level of 0.5% of total leaf protein, died significantly faster than larvae given either of the two treatments alone. Larvae fed with avidin-expressing leaves painted with the protease inhibitor, aprotinin, at a rate equivalent to 1% of total leaf protein had mortality similar to those given avidin-leaves alone. There was no evidence of antagonism between these two proteins.

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