Dietary mechanism behind the costs associated with resistance to Bacillus thuringiensis in the cabbage looper, Trichoplusia ni

Ikkei Shikano, Jenny S. Cory

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Beneficial alleles that spread rapidly as an adaptation to a new environment are often associated with costs that reduce the fitness of the population in the original environment. Several species of insect pests have evolved resistance to Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxins in the field, jeopardizing its future use. This has most commonly occurred through the alteration of insect midgut binding sites specific for Bt toxins. While fitness costs related to Bt resistance alleles have often been recorded, the mechanisms behind them have remained obscure. We asked whether evolved resistance to Bt alters dietary nutrient intake, and if reduced efficiency of converting ingested nutrients to body growth are associated with fitness costs and variation in susceptibility to Bt. We fed the cabbage looper Trichoplusia ni artificial diets differing in levels of dietary imbalance in two major macronutrients, protein and digestible carbohydrate. By comparing a Bt-resistant T. ni strain with a susceptible strain we found that the mechanism behind reduced pupal weights and growth rates associated with Bt-resistance in T. ni was reduced consumption rather than impaired conversion of ingested nutrients to growth. In fact, Bt-resistant T. ni showed more efficient conversion of nutrients than the susceptible strain under certain dietary conditions. Although increasing levels of dietary protein prior to Bt challenge had a positive effect on larval survival, the LC50 of the resistant strain decreased when fed high levels of excess protein, whereas the LC50 of the susceptible strain continued to rise. Our study demonstrates that examining the nutritional basis of fitness costs may help elucidate the mechanisms underpinning them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere105864
JournalPloS one
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 29 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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