Bioengineering economically important plants with proteinase inhibitors (PIs) is a promising method for the control of insect pests. In the case of the Colorado potato beetle (CPB; Leptinotarsa decemlineata Say), the major insect pest of potato fields, 80% of the digestive proteases are of cysteine type. We showed that 60% of these cysteine proteases are inhibited by oryzacystatins (OCs). The use of these cysteine protease inhibitor genes therefore appears of great interest for the production of Coleoptera-resistant transgenic plants of potato. Complementary studies of biochemical in vitro assays showed an apparent absence of direct interference between OCs and potato proteases. The high regeneration efficiency of the genetically transformed plants with OC gene and the “normal” phenotypical growth of the resulting transgenic potato plants suggested that these foreign genes do not interact with important physiological processes in the potato plants. In vivo assays of PIs against CPB at various developmental stages suggest the significant potential of OCs as an effective way to control CPB populations and crop damage.
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