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Genetics. 2000 Aug;155(4):1693-9.

Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxin susceptibility and isolation of resistance mutants in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans.

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Department of Biology, University of California, San Diego, California 92093, USA.


The protein toxins produced by Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) are the most widely used natural insecticides in agriculture. Despite successful and extensive use of these toxins in transgenic crops, little is known about toxicity and resistance pathways in target insects since these organisms are not ideal for molecular genetic studies. To address this limitation and to investigate the potential use of these toxins to control parasitic nematodes, we are studying Bt toxin action and resistance in Caenorhabditis elegans. We demonstrate for the first time that a single Bt toxin can target a nematode. When fed Bt toxin, C. elegans hermaphrodites undergo extensive damage to the gut, a decrease in fertility, and death, consistent with toxin effects in insects. We have screened for and isolated 10 recessive mutants that resist the toxin's effects on the intestine, on fertility, and on viability. These mutants define five genes, indicating that more components are required for Bt toxicity than previously known. We find that a second, unrelated nematicidal Bt toxin may utilize a different toxicity pathway. Our data indicate that C. elegans can be used to undertake detailed molecular genetic analysis of Bt toxin pathways and that Bt toxins hold promise as nematicides.

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