Carotenoids moderate the effectiveness of a Bt gene against the European corn borer, Ostrinia nubilalis
Sanahuja Solsona, Georgina
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We assessed the effectiveness of a biofortified maize line (4BtxHC) which accumulates high levels of antioxidant carotenoids that also expressed the insecticidal Cry1Ac Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) gene against the European corn borer Ostrinia nubilalis. This line had been previously engineered to accumulate carotenoids specifically in the seed endosperm, whereas the Bt gene was expressed constitutively. The concentrations of Bt toxin (Cry 1Ac) in the leaves of the 4Bt and 4BtxHC lines were not significantly different at 47±6 μg/g of fresh weight (FW); neither were they in the kernels of both lines (35±3 μg/g FW). The kernels and leaves were toxic to the larvae of O. nubilalis. However, the insecticidal activity was substantially lower (ca. 20%) than that of lines that expressed only Bt in spite that the two lines showed a quantity of toxin not significantly different in kernels or in leaves. Although the reduced effectiveness of Cry1Ac in kernels may not be entirely surprising, the observation of the same phenomenon in vegetative tissues was unexpected. When semi-artificial diets containing kernels from 4Bt supplemented with different levels of β-carotene were used in insect bioassays, the β-carotene moderated the effectiveness of the Bt similarly to the plant material with carotenoid enrichment. To elucidate the biochemical basis of the reduced effectiveness of Bt toxin in the carotenoid-enriched plants, we measured the activity of three enzymes known to be implicated in the detoxification defence, namely, catalase, superoxide dismutase and glutathione S-transferase. Whereas Cry1Ac expression significantly increased SOD and CAT enzymatic activity in the absence of carotenoids, carotenoids, either in 4BtxHC or in artificial diets enriched with β-carotene, significantly lowered CAT activity. Carotenoids can therefore moderate the susceptibility of the maize borer O. nubilalis to Cry1Ac, and we hypothesize that their role as antioxidants could explain this phenomenon via their scavenging of reactive oxygen species produced during Cry1Ac detoxification in the larvae. The involvement of this mechanism in the decreased mortality caused by Cry1Ac when carotenoids are present in the diet is discussed.
Is part ofPlos One, 2018, Vol. 13, No. 7, e0199317
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