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News

New findings will be useful in determining how to block insect resistance to the toxin

National Science Foundation : 10 February, 2005  (Company News)
The so-called Bt protein, produced by the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, is toxic to insects and widely used as an alternative to chemical pesticides in organic farming and in other crops. Because the mechanism the toxin uses to enter insect cells is not fully understood, strategies to prevent insects from becoming resistant to it are difficult to develop.
The so-called Bt protein, produced by the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, is toxic to insects and widely used as an alternative to chemical pesticides in organic farming and in other crops. Because the mechanism the toxin uses to enter insect cells is not fully understood, strategies to prevent insects from becoming resistant to it are difficult to develop.

University of California San Diego researcher Raffi Aroian and colleagues have discovered the first step the toxin takes to enter the insect target cells. The results of the work will be published in the Feb. 11 issue of the journal Science.

Rita Teutonico, program director in the eukaryotic genetics program at the National Science Foundation, which supports the project, said: 'Dr. Aroian is uncovering the way pests become resistant to Bt proteins. Understanding how resistance evolves could alleviate concern about this natural pesticide losing its effectiveness.'

The work also confirms that the Bt protein is not toxic to vertebrates, including animals and humans, since they lack the sugar molecules to which the toxin binds.

As a bonus, the Bt protein holds promise as a pesticide against roundworms, because the worm's sugar molecules are very similar to those the toxin binds to in insects.
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