Signaling versus punching hole: How do Bacillus thuringiensis toxins kill insect midgut cells?
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- Soberón, M., Gill, S.S. & Bravo, A. Cell. Mol. Life Sci. (2009) 66: 1337. doi:10.1007/s00018-008-8330-9
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Cry proteins, produced by Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), are widely used for the control of insect pests in agriculture as spray products or expressed in transgenic crops, such as maize and cotton. Little was known regarding the mechanism of action of these toxins when the first commercial Bt product was introduced fifty years ago. However, research on the mechanism of action over the last two decades has enhanced our knowledge of toxin interaction with membrane receptors and their effects in insect midgut cells. All this information allowed for the rational design of improved toxins with higher toxicity or toxins that overcome insect resistance, which could compromise Bt use and effectiveness in the field. In this review we discuss and evaluate the different models of the mode of action of Cry toxins, including a discussion about the role of various receptors in toxin action.