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Development of insect resistance is one of the main concerns with the use of transgenic crops expressing Cry toxins from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis. Identification of biomarkers would assist in the development of sensitive DNA-based methods to monitor evolution of resistance to Bt toxins in natural populations. We report on the proteomic and genomic detection of reduced levels of midgut membrane-bound alkaline phosphatase (mALP) as a common feature in strains of Cry-resistant Heliothis virescens, Helicoverpa armigera and Spodoptera frugiperda when compared to susceptible larvae. Reduced levels of H. virescens mALP protein (HvmALP) were detected by two dimensional differential in-gel electrophoresis (2D-DIGE) analysis in Cry-resistant compared to susceptible larvae, further supported by alkaline phosphatase activity assays and Western blotting. Through quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) we demonstrate that the reduction in HvmALP protein levels in resistant larvae are the result of reduced transcript amounts. Similar reductions in ALP activity and mALP transcript levels were also detected for a Cry1Ac-resistant strain of H. armigera and field-derived strains of S. frugiperda resistant to Cry1Fa. Considering the unique resistance and cross-resistance phenotypes of the insect strains used in this work, our data suggest that reduced mALP expression should be targeted for development of effective biomarkers for resistance to Cry toxins in lepidopteran pests.

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0017606


This article has been funded by the University of Tennessee's Open Publishing Support Fund.

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