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J Invertebr Pathol. 2009 Mar;100(3):139-46.

Peritrophic membrane contribution to Bt Cry delta-endotoxin susceptibility in Lepidoptera and the effect of Calcofluor.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, Tennis Court Road, University of Cambridge, Cambs CB21GA, UK.


In an effort to determine a reason for differing susceptibilities to Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) Cry delta-endotoxins amongst lepidopteran species, the peritrophic membrane (PM), and a number of agents that target the PM, were investigated to determine their effect on the efficacy of Bt toxins. In particular Calcofluor is able to disrupt the PM that acts as a barrier to microorganisms. Although Bt toxins have been shown to traverse the PM in some lepidopteran species, new data shows that toxins can bind the PM. Lepidopteran larval PMs also vary in thickness and composition that may determine the passage of Bt toxins. In non-susceptible insects the toxin associates with PM proteins and frass and is thought to be retained by the PM and then excreted before binding to the exposed target midgut membrane. However, the addition of Calcofluor to Bt toxins at an LC50 for the recipient species did not result in an increase in the efficacy of the toxin. It is evident that Calcofluor does disrupt the PM but the toxin preferentially binds PM fragments and is excreted instead of binding the exposed target midgut membrane, therefore having little toxic effect. This study therefore concludes that Calcofluor is not as suitable as other toxin enhancing agents such as chitinase.

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