Soil incubation studies with Cry1Ac protein indicate no adverse effect of Bt crops on soil microbial communities

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Abstract or Summary

Bt crops that are transgenic crops engineered to produce Bt toxins which occur naturally with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) have been widely planted and its environmental risk assessment has been heavily debated. The effects of Btcrops on soil microbial communities are possible through changing the quantity and quality of C inputs and potential toxic activity of Bt protein on soil organisms. To date, the direct effects of Bt protein on soil microorganisms is unclear. Here we added Cry1Ac, one of the most commonly used Bt protein in Bt crops, to the soil and monitored changes in soil bacterial, fungal and archaeal diversities and community structures using ribosomal DNA-fingerprinting method, as well as their population sizes by real-time PCR over a 100-day period. Despite the fact that variations were observed in the indices of evenness, diversity and population sizes of bacteria, fungi and archaea with different Cry1Ac addition rates up to 100 ng g−1 soil, the indices of soil microbial diversities and evennesses did not significantly shift with Cry1Ac protein addition, nor did population sizes change over time. The diversities of the dominant bacteria, fungi and archaea were not significantly changed, given Cry1Ac protein addition rates over a period of 100 days. These results suggested that Bt protein derived by cultivations of transgenic Bt crops is unlikely to cause transient or even persisting significant changes in soil microorganisms in field.

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