When caterpillars feed on maize (Zea maize L.) lines with native resistance to several Lepidopteran pests, a defensive cysteine protease, Mir1-CP, rapidly accumulates at the wound site. Mir1-CP has been shown to inhibit caterpillar growth in vivo by attacking and permeabilizing the insect's pentrophic matrix (PM), a structure that surrounds the food bolus assists in digestion and protects the midgut from microbes and toxins. PM permeabilization weakens the caterpillar defenses by facilitating the movement of other insecticidal proteins in the diet to the midgut microvilli and thereby enhancing their toxicity. To directly determine the toxicity of Mir1-CP, the purified recombinant enzyme was directly tested against four economically significant Lepidopteran pests in bioassays. Mir1-CP LC50 values were 1.8, 3.6, 0.6, and 8.0 pprn for corn earworm, tobacco budworm, fall armyworm and southwestern corn borer, respectively. These values were the same order of magnitude as those determined for the Bacillus thuringiensis toxin Bt-CryIIA. In addition to being directly toxic to the larvae, 60 ppb Mir1-CP synergized sublethal concentrations of Bt-CryIIA in all four species. Permeabilization of the PM by Mir1-CP probably provides ready access to Bt-binding sites on the midgut microvilli and increases its activity. Consequently, Mir1-CP could be used for controlling caterpillar pests in maize using non-transgenic approaches and potentially could be used in other crops either singly or in combination with Bt-toxins.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)