Is the Cry1Ab Protein from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) Taken Up by Plants from Soils Previously Planted with Bt Corn and by Carrot from Hydroponic Culture?

  • I. Icoz
  • D. Andow
  • C. Zwahlen
  • G. StotzkyEmail author


The uptake of the insecticidal Cry1Ab protein from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) by various crops from soils on which Bt corn had previously grown was determined. In 2005, the Cry1Ab protein was detected by Western blot in tissues (leaves plus stems) of basil, carrot, kale, lettuce, okra, parsnip, radish, snap bean, and soybean but not in tissues of beet and spinach and was estimated by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) to be 0.05 ± 0.003 ng g−1 of fresh plant tissue in basil, 0.02 ± 0.014 ng g−1 in okra, and 0.34 ± 0.176 ng g−1 in snap bean. However, the protein was not detected by ELISA in carrot, kale, lettuce, parsnip, radish, and soybean or in the soils by Western blot. In 2006, the Cry1Ab protein was detected by Western blot in tissues of basil, carrot, kale, radish, snap bean, and soybean from soils on which Bt corn had been grown the previous year and was estimated by ELISA to be 0.02 ± 0.014 ng g−1 of fresh plant tissue in basil, 0.19 ± 0.060 ng g−1 in carrot, 0.05 ± 0.018 ng g−1 in kale, 0.04 ± 0.022 ng g−1 in radish, 0.53 ± 0.170 ng g−1 in snap bean, and 0.15 ± 0.071 ng g−1 in soybean. The Cry1Ab protein was also detected by Western blot in tissues of basil, carrot, kale, radish, and snap bean but not of soybean grown in soil on which Bt corn had not been grown since 2002; the concentration was estimated by ELISA to be 0.03 ± 0.021 ng g−1 in basil, 0.02 ± 0.008 ng g−1 in carrot, 0.04 ± 0.017 ng g−1 in kale, 0.02 ± 0.012 ng g−1 in radish, 0.05 ± 0.004 ng g−1 in snap bean, and 0.09 ± 0.015 ng g−1 in soybean. The protein was detected by Western blot in 2006 in most soils on which Bt corn had or had not been grown since 2002. The Cry1Ab protein was detected by Western blot in leaves plus stems and in roots of carrot after 56 days of growth in sterile hydroponic culture to which purified Cry1Ab protein had been added and was estimated by ELISA to be 0.08 ± 0.021 and 0.60 ± 0.148 ng g−1 of fresh leaves plus stems and roots, respectively. No Cry1Ab protein was detected in the tissues of carrot grown in hydroponic culture to which no Cry1Ab protein had been added. Because of the different results obtained with different commercial Western blot (i.e., from Envirologix and Agdia) and ELISA kits (i.e., from Envirologix, Agdia, and Abraxis), it is not clear whether the presence of the Cry1Ab protein in the tissues of some plants under field condition and in carrot in sterile hydroponic culture was the result of the uptake of the protein by the plants or of the accuracy and sensitivity of the different commercial kits used. More detailed studies with additional techniques are obviously needed to confirm the uptake of Cry proteins from soil by plants subsequently planted after a Bt crop.


Cry1Ab protein Bacillus thuringiensis Plant uptake Carrot 



These studies were supported, in part, by grants 2003-35107-13776 from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and N5238 from the New York University Research Challenge Fund (NYURCF). The opinions expressed herein are not necessarily those of the USDA or the NYURCF. We thank Alp Icoz, Nidhi Sabharwal, Shannon McCrindle, Keegan Hasselmann, Matthew Korthhauer, Amy McIntyre, Welile Mhlanga, and numerous undergraduate assistants for their help in the laboratory and field.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Microbial Ecology, Department of BiologyNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Department of EntomologyUniversity of MinnesotaSt. PaulUSA

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