Exposure of insect larvae to sublethal concentrations of crystal toxins from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt toxins) causes the induction of immune and metabolic responses that can be transmitted to offspring by epigenetic inheritance mechanisms. Given that the elevated immune status carries significant developmental penalties, we wanted to establish the relationships between immune induction, tolerance to the toxin and developmental penalties. A laboratory culture of Helicoverpa armigera was induced by a sublethal bacterial suspension containing crystal toxin Cry1Ac in one generation and maintained in the presence of toxin, acquiring significant levels of tolerance to the toxin within 12 generations of continuous exposure. Comparing tolerant and susceptible insects, we show that the induction of larval immune response and the coincident alteration of development-related metabolic activities by elicitors in the larval gut (larval induction) differs from the elevated immune status transmitted by epigenetic mechanisms (embryonic induction). Because the damaging effects of larval induction processes are higher compared to embryonic induction, it is likely that overall developmental penalties depend on the relative contribution of the two induction processes. When insects are kept with the same amount of toxin in the diet for subsequent generations, the embryonic induction process increases its contribution compared to the larval induction, resulting in reduced overall developmental penalty, while tolerance to the toxin is maintained.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Food Science
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology