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A scorpion neurotoxin increases the potency of a fungal insecticide


The low virulence of the insecticidal fungus Metarhizium anisopliae has stymied its widespread use in controlling insect pests. We show that high-level expression of an insect-specific neurotoxin from the scorpion Androctonus australis in hemolymph by M. anisopliae increases fungal toxicity 22-fold against tobacco hornworm (Manduca sexta) caterpillars and ninefold against adult yellow fever mosquitoes (Aedes aegypti) without compromising host specificity. Prelethal effects include reduced mobility and feeding of the insects targeted.

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Figure 1: Transgene expression driven by the MCL1 promoter.
Figure 2: Survival curves of insects infected with WT and AaIT-549.

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We are grateful to A. Read, J. Gressel, M. Thomas and A.K. Charnley for critical readings of this manuscript and to David O'Brochta at the Center for Biosystems Research, University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute for providing the mosquitoes. This work was supported by the National Hi-Tech Program of China 2006AA10A119 and US Department of Agriculture/CSREES grant 2006-03692.

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C.W. and R.J.S.L. designed and performed the experiments, analyzed the data and wrote the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Chengshu Wang or Raymond J St Leger.

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Supplementary Figures 1–4; Supplementary Table 1; Supplementary Methods. (PDF 214 kb)

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Wang, C., St Leger, R. A scorpion neurotoxin increases the potency of a fungal insecticide. Nat Biotechnol 25, 1455–1456 (2007).

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