Bacillus thuringiensis: a century of research, development and commercial applications

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Abstract or Summary

Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a soil bacterium that forms spores during the stationary phase of its growth cycle. The spores contain crystals, predominantly comprising one or more Cry and/or Cyt proteins (also known as δ-endotoxins) that have potent and specific insecticidal activity. Different strains of Bt produce different types of toxin, each of which affects a narrow taxonomic group of insects. Therefore, Bt toxins have been used as topical pesticides to protect crops, and more recently the proteins have been expressed in transgenic plants to confer inherent pest resistance. Bt transgenic crops have been overwhelmingly successful and beneficial, leading to higher yields and reducing the use of chemical pesticides and fossil fuels. However, their deployment has attracted some criticism particularly with regard to the potential evolution of pest-resistant insect strains. Here, we review recent progress in the development of Bt technology and the countermeasures that have been introduced to prevent the evolution of resistant insect populations.

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