Entomology, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Transgenic Research 26 (2017), pp. 419–428. doi 10.1007/s11248-017-0014-5


Copyright © 2017 Springer International Publishing Switzerland. Used by permission.


Greater than expected injury by western corn rootworm (WCR) (Diabrotica virgifera virgifera LeConte) to Cry3Bb1 expressing maize hybrids (Zea mays L.) has been reported in southwestern Nebraska. Affected areas of some fields are often associated with high pH calcareous soils where maize growth is poor and iron chlorosis is common. As part of a comprehensive study to understand potential causes of unexpected injury, experiments were conducted during 2013 and 2014 to ascertain whether the calcareous soil conditions and associated poor maize growth negatively affect the expression of Cry3Bb1. Quantitative determination of Cry3Bb1 protein expression levels in root tissues was carried out on plants at V5–V6 growth stage using the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Cry3Bb1 and non-Bt near isoline maize hybrids were artificially infested with Cry3Bb1-susceptible WCR eggs to measure survival and efficacy of Cry3Bb1 maize in calcareous and noncalcareous soils. Results showed that there was not a significant difference in expression of Cry3Bb1 protein between plants from calcareous and non-calcareous soils (18.9–21.2 μg/g fresh weight). Western corn rootworm survival was about sevenfold greater from the non-Bt isoline than Cry3Bb1 maize indicating that Cry3Bb1 performed as expected when infested with a Cry3Bb1 susceptible rootworm population. When survival from calcareous and non-calcareous soils was compared, no significant differences were observed in each soil. A significant positive correlation between soil pH and expression of Cry3Bb1 protein in roots was detected from samples collected in 2014 but not in 2013. No such correlation was found between soil pH and survival of WCR. Results suggest that Cry3Bb1 expression levels were sufficient to provide adequate root protection against WCR regardless of soil environment, indicating that lowered Cry3Bb1 expression is not a contributing factor to the greater than expected WCR injury observed in some southwestern Nebraska maize fields.

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