National Research Council of Canada. NRC Biotechnology Research Institute
Environmentally benign insecticides derived from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) are the most widely used biopesticides, but their success will be short-lived if pests quickly adapt to them. The risk of evolution of resistance by pests has increased, because transgenic crops producing insecticidal proteins from Bt are being grown commercially. Efforts to delay resistance with two or more Bt toxins assume that independent mutations are required to counter each toxin. Moreover, it generally is assumed that resistance alleles are rare in susceptible populations. We tested these assumptions by conducting single-pair crosses with diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella), the first insect known to have evolved resistance to Bt in open field populations. An autosomal recessive gene conferred extremely high resistance to four Bt toxins (Cry1Aa, Cry1Ab, Cry1Ac, and Cry1F). The finding that 21% of the individuals from a susceptible strain were heterozygous for the multiple-toxin resistance gene implies that the resistance allele frequency was 10 times higher than the most widely cited estimate of the upper limit for the initial frequency of resistance alleles in susceptible populations. These findings suggest that pests may evolve resistance to some groups of toxins much faster than previously expected.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences94, no. 5 (March 1997): 1640–1644.