Laboratory of Environmental Biotechnology, Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB), Havana, Cuba.
Bacillus thuringiensis is a Gram-positive bacterium, widely used in agriculture as a biological pesticide. The biocidal activity mainly resides in a parasporal protein inclusion body, or crystal. The inclusion is composed of one or more types of delta-endotoxins (Cry and Cyt proteins). Cry proteins are selectively toxic to different species from several invertebrate phyla: arthropods (mainly insects), nematodes, flatworms and protozoa. The mode of action of the insecticidal proteins is still a matter of investigation; generally, the active toxin is supposed to bind specific membrane receptors on the insect midgut brush-border epithelium, leading to intestinal cell lysis and subsequent insect death by starvation or septicemia. The toxin-encoding cry genes have been extensively studied and expressed in a large number of prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms. The expression of such genes in transgenic plants has provided a powerful alternative for crop protection.
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