Transgenic avidin maize is resistant to storage insect pests

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Avidin is a glycoprotein found in chicken egg white, that sequesters the vitamin biotin. Here we show that when present in maize at levels of ≥100 p.p.m., avidin is toxic to and prevents development of insects that damage grains during storage. Insect toxicity is caused by a biotin deficiency, as shown by prevention of toxicity with biotin supplementation. The avidin maize is not, however, toxic to mice when administered as the sole component of their diet for 21 days. These dates suggest that avidin expression in food or feed grain crops can be used as a biopesticide against a spectrum of stored-produce insect pests.*

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Figure 1: Mortality of three species of Coleoptera as a function of avidin concentration in maize meal: lesser grain borer (Rhyzopertha dominica), sawtoothed grain borer* (Oryzaephilus surinamensis), and red flour beetle (Tribolium castaneum).


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    * NOTE: In the printed version, several editorial errors were introduced. Please see the PDF for the corrected version.


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This paper is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Thomas H. Czapla, a molecular entomologist who was a team member during the early stages of this project. His passion for entomological science was exceptional. We are grateful to Drs. Michael Kanost, Subbaratnam Muthukrishnan, Sonny Ramaswamy, Charles Hedgcoth, Craig Roseland, James Baker, and Troy Weeks for commenting on this manuscript; and Ann Redmon, Trevor Bevans, Natasha Rowly, Feng Xie, Dr. Ian Tizzard and Debra Turner for technical assistance. Mention of a proprietary product does not constitute a recommendation by the USDA. The Agricultural Research Service, USDA, is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer, and all agency services are available without discrimination.

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Correspondence to Karl J. Kramer.

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