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Impact of Bt cotton on the immune system and histology of the midgut of the fall armyworm Spodoptera frugiperda (J.E. Smith) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae)

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For more content, see Archives Néerlandaises de Zoologie (Vol 1-17) and Netherlands Journal of Zoology (Vol 18-52).

Despite the efficiency of transgenic plants expressing Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxins as insecticides against several lepidopterans, Spodoptera frugiperda (J.E. Smith) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) is one species that presents low susceptibility to most Bt crops. This study investigated the effects of the Cry1Ac toxin expressed by Bt cotton in the midgut of S. frugiperda and its effects on the humoral and cellular immune responses. Three hypotheses were proposed and tested with contributing factors for the natural tolerance of S. frugiperda: (i) midgut regenerative cells are activated by the Cry1Ac toxin, and thus renew the epithelial cells damaged by the protein, (ii) Cry1Ac increased production of nitric oxide or phenoloxidase in the hemolymph, and (iii) there are qualitative and quantitative variations in the hemocyte levels of S. frugiperda. Caterpillars were reared using Bt cotton (Acala 90B) and non-Bt isolines (Acala 90), from the first to the fourth instar. The Bt cotton promoted elongation of the epithelial cells in the midgut of S. frugiperda caterpillars. Hence, evidence only supported the hypothesised increase of phenoloxidase (ii) and qualitative and quantitative differences in hemocyte levels (iii) in insects that were fed with Bt and non-Bt cotton. These parameters seem to explain the low susceptibility of S. frugiperda to Cry1Ac toxin and they are a viable set of responses for the evaluation of other xenobiotic factors.

Affiliations: 1: 1Departamento de Agronomia-Entomologia, Universidade Federal Rural de Pernambuco, Av. Dom Manoel de Medeiros s/n, Dois Irmãos, 52171-900, Recife, PE, Brasil; 2: 2Departamento de Morfologia e Fisiologia Animal, Universidade Federal Rural de Pernambuco, Av. Dom Manoel de Medeiros s/n, Dois Irmãos, 52171-900, Recife, PE, Brasil; 3: 3LIKA – LIKA – Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, Av. Professor Mores Rego s/n, 50670-901, Recife, PE, Brasil


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