The effect of nitrogen rate on transgenic corn Cry3Bb1 protein expression




Combining herbicide-resistant and Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) traits in corn (Zea mays L.) hybrids may affect insect resistance management owing to volunteer corn. Some Bt toxins may be expressed at lower levels by nitrogen-deficient corn roots. Corn plants with sublethal levels of Bt expression could accelerate the evolution of Bt resistance in target insects. The present objective was to quantify the concentration of Bt (Cry3Bb1) in corn root tissue with varying tissue nitrogen concentrations.


Expression of Cry3Bb1 toxin in root tissue was highly variable, but there were no differences in the overall concentration of Cry3Bb1 expressed between roots taken from Cry3Bb1-positive volunteer and hybrid corn plants. The nitrogen rate did affect Cry3Bb1 expression in the greenhouse, less nitrogen resulted in decreased Cry3Bb1 expression, yet this result was not documented in the field.


A positive linear relationship of plant nitrogen status on Cry3Bb1 toxin expression was documented. Also, high variability in Cry3Bb1 expression is potentially problematic from an insect resistance management perspective. This variability could create a mosaic of toxin doses in the field, which does not fit into the high-dose refuge strategy and could alter predictions about the speed of evolution of resistance to Cry3Bb1 in western corn rootworm Diabrotica virgifera virgifera LeConte. © 2013 Society of Chemical Industry