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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2012 Jan;78(2):354-62. doi: 10.1128/AEM.06212-11. Epub 2011 Nov 11.

Differential protection of Cry1Fa toxin against Spodoptera frugiperda larval gut proteases by cadherin orthologs correlates with increased synergism.

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  • 1Department of Entomology, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA.


The Cry proteins produced by Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) are the most widely used biopesticides effective against a range of crop pests and disease vectors. Like chemical pesticides, development of resistance is the primary threat to the long-term efficacy of Bt toxins. Recently discovered cadherin-based Bt Cry synergists showed the potential to augment resistance management by improving efficacy of Cry toxins. However, the mode of action of Bt Cry synergists is thus far unclear. Here we elucidate the mechanism of cadherin-based Cry toxin synergism utilizing two cadherin peptides, Spodoptera frugiperda Cad (SfCad) and Manduca sexta Cad (MsCad), which differentially enhance Cry1Fa toxicity to Spodoptera frugiperda neonates. We show that differential SfCad- and MsCad-mediated protection of Cry1Fa toxin in the Spodoptera frugiperda midgut correlates with differential Cry1Fa toxicity enhancement. Both peptides exhibited high affinity for Cry1Fa toxin and an increased rate of Cry1Fa-induced pore formation in S. frugiperda. However, only SfCad bound the S. frugiperda brush border membrane vesicle and more effectively prolonged the stability of Cry1Fa toxin in the gut, explaining higher Cry1Fa enhancement by this peptide. This study shows that cadherin fragments may enhance B. thuringiensis toxicity by at least two different mechanisms or a combination thereof: (i) protection of Cry toxin from protease degradation in the insect midgut and (ii) enhancement of pore-forming ability of Cry toxin.

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