[ Back to EurekAlert! ] Public release date: 3-Mar-2009
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Contact: Charlotte Webber
charlotte.webber@biomedcentral.com
44-020-763-19980
BioMed Central

Insecticidal toxin useless without 'friendly' bacteria accomplices

The toxin produced by the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a popular insecticide used to control pest moths and butterflies, and in some GM pest-proof crops. In a study published in the open access journal BMC Biology, researchers show that its effectiveness against a number of susceptible Lepidopteran species depends on the presence of the normally "friendly" bacteria that colonise their guts. Without these bacteria, the Bt toxin can become impotent in some species.

A team of researchers from the University of Wisconsin studied the effects of wiping out the commensal gut bacteria using antibiotics in six moth and butterfly species. In five of these species, the antibiotic treatment protected the insects against the lethal effects of the toxin, and in four of the five species, replacing the gut bacteria caused the toxin to become effective again. Graduate student Nichole Broderick said, "Our results suggest that Bt may kill some insects by causing otherwise benign gut bacteria to exert pathogenic effects. If the insects don't have these bacteria present, the toxin may be ineffective".

According to the authors, "We've shown that larval enteric bacteria affect susceptibility to Bt, and the extent of this impact varies across butterfly and moth species. This does not exclude other factors, including the insect host, B. thuringiensis strain, and environmental conditions. In some cases these factors may interact, for example, host diet can alter the composition of enteric bacteria".

They conclude, "From a pest management perspective, the ability of a non-specific enteric bacterium to restore B. thuringiensis-induced mortality of some Lepidopteran species may provide opportunities for increasing susceptibility or preventing resistance".

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Notes to Editors:

1. Contributions of gut bacteria to Bacillus thuringiensis-induced mortality vary across a range of Lepidoptera
Nichole A. Broderick, Courtney J. Robinson, Matthew D. McMahon, Jonathan Holt, Jo Handelsman and Kenneth F. Raffa
BMC Biology (in press)

During embargo, article can be accessed here: http://www.biomedcentral.com/imedia/1249852608221735_article.pdf?random=760254

Article available at journal website: http://www.biomedcentral.com/bmcbiol/

Please name the journal in any story you write. If you are writing for the web, please link to the article. All articles are available free of charge, according to BioMed Central's open access policy.

2. BMC Biology - the flagship biology journal of the BMC series - publishes research and methodology articles of special importance and broad interest in any area of biology and biomedical sciences. BMC Biology (ISSN 1741-7007) is covered by PubMed, MEDLINE, BIOSIS, CAS, Scopus, EMBASE, Zoological Record, Thomson Reuters (ISI) and Google Scholar.

3. BioMed Central (www.biomedcentral.com) is an STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publisher which has pioneered the open access publishing model. All peer-reviewed research articles published by BioMed Central are made immediately and freely accessible online, and are licensed to allow redistribution and reuse. BioMed Central is part of Springer Science+Business Media, a leading global publisher in the STM sector.



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