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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2007 Nov;73(21):6939-44. Epub 2007 Sep 7.

Mutated cadherin alleles from a field population of Helicoverpa armigera confer resistance to Bacillus thuringiensis toxin Cry1Ac.

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Department of Entomology, College of Plant Protection, Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing 210095, China.


The cotton bollworm Helicoverpa armigera is the major insect pest targeted by cotton genetically engineered to produce the Bacillus thuringiensis toxin (transgenic Bt cotton) in the Old World. The evolution of this pest's resistance to B. thuringiensis toxins is the main threat to the long-term effectiveness of transgenic Bt cotton. A deletion mutation allele (r(1)) of a cadherin gene (Ha_BtR) was previously identified as genetically linked with Cry1Ac resistance in a laboratory-selected strain of H. armigera. Using a biphasic screen strategy, we successfully trapped two new cadherin alleles (r(2) and r(3)) associated with Cry1Ac resistance from a field population of H. armigera collected from the Yellow River cotton area of China in 2005. The r(2) and r(3) alleles, respectively, were created by inserting the long terminal repeat of a retrotransposon (designated HaRT1) and the intact HaRT1 retrotransposon at the same position in exon 8 of Ha_BtR, which results in a truncated cadherin containing only two ectodomain repeats in the N terminus of Ha_BtR. This is the first time that the B. thuringiensis resistance alleles of a target insect of Bt crops have been successfully detected in the open field. This study also demonstrated that bollworm larvae carrying two resistance alleles can complete development on Bt cotton. The cadherin locus should be an important target for intensive DNA-based screening of field populations of H. armigera.

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