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Nat Biotechnol. 2014 Jan;32(1):102-5. doi: 10.1038/nbt.2753. Epub 2013 Dec 8.

Toxin delivery by the coat protein of an aphid-vectored plant virus provides plant resistance to aphids.

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  • 1Department of Entomology, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, USA.
  • 2Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, USA.
  • 3Department of Statistics, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, USA.
  • 4Institute for Molecular Bioscience, The University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Queensland, Australia.


The sap-sucking insects (order Hemiptera), including aphids, planthoppers, whiteflies and stink bugs, present one of the greatest challenges for pest management in global agriculture. Insect neurotoxins offer an alternative to chemical insecticides for controlling these pests, but require delivery into the insect hemocoel. Here we use the coat protein of a luteovirus, an aphid-vectored plant virus, to deliver a spider-derived, insect-specific toxin that acts within the hemocoel. The luteovirid coat protein is sufficient for delivery of fused proteins into the hemocoel of pea aphids, Acyrthosiphon pisum, without virion assembly. We show that when four aphid pest species-A. pisum, Rhopalosiphum padi, Aphis glycines and Myzus persicae-feed on a recombinant coat protein-toxin fusion, either in an experimental membrane sachet or in transgenic Arabidopsis plants, they experience significant mortality. Aphids fed on these fusion proteins showed signs of neurotoxin-induced paralysis. Luteovirid coat protein-insect neurotoxin fusions represent a promising strategy for transgenic control of aphids and potentially other hemipteran pests.

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