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Role of a gamma-aminobutryic acid (GABA) receptor mutation in the evolution and spread of Diabrotica virgifera virgifera resistance to cyclodiene insecticides


Correspondence: Blair D. Siegfried, Department of Entomology, University of Nebraska, 103 Entomology Hall, Lincoln, NE 68583-0816, USA. Tel.: +1 402 472 2123; fax: +1 402 472 4687; e-mail:


The western corn rootworm, Diabrotica virgifera virgifera, is a damaging pest of cultivated corn that was controlled by applications of cyclodiene insecticides from the late 1940s until resistance evolved ∼10 years later. Range expansion from the western plains into eastern USA coincides with resistance development. An alanine to serine amino acid substitution within the Rdl subunit of the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptor confers resistance to cyclodiene insecticides in many species. We found that the non-synonymous single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) G/T at the GABA receptor cDNA position 838 (G/T838) of D. v. virgifera resulted in the alanine to serine change, and the codominant SNP allele T838 was genetically linked to survival of beetles in aldrin bioassays. A phenotypic gradient of decreasing susceptibility from west to east was correlated with higher frequencies of the resistance-conferring T838 allele in the eastern-most populations. This pattern exists in opposition to perceived selective pressures since the more eastern and most resistant populations probably experienced reduced exposure. The reasons for the observed distribution are uncertain, but historical records of the range expansion combined with the distribution of susceptible and resistant phenotypes and genotypes provide an opportunity to better understand factors affecting the species' range expansion.