Bacillus thuringiensis as a specific, safe, and effective tool for insect pest control.

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Abstract or Summary

Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) was first described by Berliner when he isolated a Bacillus species from the Mediterranean flour moth, Anagasta kuehniella, and named it after the province Thuringia in Germany where the infected moth was found. Although this was the first description under the name B. thuringiensis, it was not the first isolation. In 1901, a Japanese biologist, Ishiwata Shigetane, discovered a previously undescribed bacterium as the causative agent of a disease afflicting silkworms. Bt was originally considered a risk for silkworm rearing but it has become the heart of microbial insect control. The earliest commercial production began in France in 1938, under the name Sporeine. A resurgence of interest in Bt has been attributed to Edward Steinhaus who obtained a culture in 1942 and attracted attention to the potential of Bt through his subsequent studies. In 1956, T. Angus demonstrated that the crystalline protein inclusions formed in the course of sporulation were responsible for the insecticidal action of Bt. By the early 1980's, Gonzalez et al. revealed that the genes coding for crystal proteins were localized on transmissible plasmids, using a plasmid curing technique, and Schnepf and Whiteley first cloned and characterized the genes coding for crystal proteins that had toxicity to larvae of the tobacco hornworm, from plasmid DNA of Bt subsp. kurstaki HD-1. This first cloning was followed quickly by the cloning of many other cry genes and eventually led to the development of Bt transgenic plants. In the 1980s, several scientists successively demonstrated that plants can be genetically engineered, and finally, Bt cotton reached the market in 1996.

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