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Exploring the Mechanism of Action of Insecticidal Proteins by Genetic Engineering Methods

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Genetic Engineering

Part of the book series: Genetic Engineering ((GEPM,volume 22))

Abstract

Since 1995 a most astounding revolution has been taking place in the field of agriculture. The introduction of systemic insecticidal proteins in plants has revolutionized pesticide application. The impact of this new technology has already been touched upon in this series (1–5). To a large extent this has been possible because of the extensive basic research that has been done on the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) Cry proteins (5,6). The following review will provide an update on the mechanism of action of the Bt Cry proteins. With this base of knowledge, the possibilities are open to protein engineering of Cry proteins for improved pest control and reduced impact on non-target pests and we shall discuss some beginning efforts in the area on Protein Engineering of Bt toxins. In her landmark book, The Silent Spring, Rachel Carson (7) pointed the way to an alternate method of controlling pests. She described the then embryonic use of Bt as a sprayable pesticide. In the intervening 37 years the use of Bt has remained a viable and ecologically softer pest control agent. Bt has a limited host range and therefore has less environmental impact than broad-spectrum conventional pesticides. The Cry proteins are biodegradable and have minimal impact on non-target insects. New strains of Bt were discovered that had improved activity against target pests. However, despite these advantages and improvements, Bt remained only a minor player compared to conventional pesticides as a treatment for crops (about 2% of the pesticide market). The major reason for this is that farmers preferred the quick knock-down of conventional pesticides to the slower and more laborious timing protocols of Bt applications; i.e., economic reasons have prevented Bt from achieving its potential.

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Jenkins, J.L., Dean, D.H. (2000). Exploring the Mechanism of Action of Insecticidal Proteins by Genetic Engineering Methods. In: Setlow, J.K. (eds) Genetic Engineering. Genetic Engineering, vol 22. Springer, Boston, MA. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4615-4199-8_4

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