Pear Transformed with a Lytic Peptide Gene for Disease Control Affects Nontarget Organism, Pear Psylla (Homoptera: Psyllidae)

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The biology and behavior of pear psylla, Cacopsylla pyricola Foerster, on a transgenic clone of ‘Bartlett’ pear, Pyrus communis L., containing a synthetic antimicrobial gene, D5C1, was compared with that of a nontransgenic parental clone to determine whether there were any nontarget effects. The gene construct also contained the marker gene nptII (aminoglycoside 3′-phosphotransferase II) that encodes for antibiotic resistance to identify transformed plants. The purpose of the original transformation was to enhance pear resistance to the bacterial disease fireblight caused by Erwinia amylovora (Burr.) Winslow et al. The biology and behavior of pear psylla on a transgenic clone were compared with a nontransgenic parental pear clone in short- (≤7-d) and long-term (32-d) studies. Short-term studies indicated pear psylla adults preferred to settle and oviposit, and nymphs fed more and developed slightly faster, on transgenic pear compared with nontransgenic pear. In contrast, a long-term study on psylla colony development showed considerably fewer eggs, nymphs, and adults were produced on transgenic pear. Although adults reared on transgenic pear did not have weight affected, females produced fewer eggs and nymphal hatch was significantly reduced on the transgenic pear clone. Our results suggest that pear psylla biology and behavior are initially enhanced on this transgenic pear clone. However, chronic exposure of psylla populations to transformed pear plants that express the nptII marker and lytic peptide genes had detrimental effects on pear psylla reproductive biology. Field studies would be required to determine the specific effects of each gene on pear psylla biology and behavior and whether these effects would be expressed under natural conditions. The four-fold reduction in psylla population levels that resulted on this disease resistant transgenic pear line would be an added benefit to a pear integrated pest management (IPM) program. Overall, this study demonstrates that genetically altering plants to control one particular organism can have unintentional yet beneficial effects against other nontarget pest organisms in agricultural crops.

Keywords: lytic peptide; nontarget organisms; pear psylla; transgenic pear

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: August 1, 2002

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  • Journal of Economic Entomology is published bimonthly in February, April, June, August, October, and December. The journal publishes articles on the economic significance of insects and is divided into the following sections: apiculture & social insects; arthropods in relation to plant disease; forum; insecticide resistance and resistance management; ecotoxicology; biological and microbial control; ecology and behavior; sampling and biostatistics; household and structural insects; medical entomology; molecular entomology; veterinary entomology; forest entomology; horticultural entomology; field and forage crops, and small grains; stored-product; commodity treatment and quarantine entomology; and plant resistance. In addition to research papers, Journal of Economic Entomology publishes Letters to the Editor, interpretive articles in a Forum section, Short Communications, Rapid Communications, and Book Reviews.
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