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Mol Microbiol. 1993 Feb;7(4):489-96.

The two faces of Bacillus thuringiensis: insecticidal proteins and post-exponential survival.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907.


Post-exponential Bacillus thuringiensis cells produce both an endospore and a variety of intracellular inclusions. The latter are comprised of protoxins, each being specific for the larvae of certain species from at least three orders of insects. Following ingestion of spores and inclusions, toxicity results in the spores gaining access to haemolymph, a source of nutrients suitable for germination and growth. Most B. thuringiensis subspecies contain multiple, plasmid-encoded protoxin genes, often with several on the same plasmid. These genes have been manipulated in order to understand the basis of toxicity and specificity, information which is important to the use of these toxins as biological control agents. Some protoxin genes are in operons, and others are in close proximity, perhaps to enhance the chances of recombination, and some are on unstable plasmids. The arrangement of these genes is probably important for flexibility in the variety of protoxins packaged into inclusions by a particular subspecies and thus the capacity to adapt to changing populations of insects. Protoxins accumulate over a prolonged period during sporulation because of the sequential transcription from two promoters, each being dependent upon a specific sporulation sigma factor, the relative stability of the messenger RNA, and the synthesis of proteins which stabilize protoxins and perhaps facilitate inclusion assembly. During the post-exponential phase, spore and inclusion formation must be balanced so as to ensure that both are available to contribute to the survival of these bacilli.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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