Research Report

Distribution of vip Genes, Protein Profiling and Determination of Entomopathogenic Potential of Local Isolates of Bacillus thuringiensis  

Prashant R. Shingote , Mangesh P. Moharil , Dipti R. Dhumale , Amit G. Deshmukh , Pravin V. Jadhav , Mahendra S. Dudhare , Niraj S. Satpute
Biotechnology Centre, Dr. Panjabrao Deshmukh Agricultural University, Akola (MS), 444 104, India
Author    Correspondence author
Bt Research, 2013, Vol. 4, No. 3   doi: 10.5376/bt.2013.04.0003
Received: 27 Jun., 2013    Accepted: 10 Jul., 2013    Published: 30 Aug., 2013
© 2013 BioPublisher Publishing Platform
This is an open access article published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Preferred citation for this article:

Moharil et al., 2013, Distribution of vip Genes, Protein Profiling and Determination of Entomopathogenic Potential of Local Isolates of Bacillus thuringiensis, Bt Research, Vol.4, No.3 14-20 (doi: 10.5376/bt.2013.04.0003)


The aim of this study was to screen the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) strains isolated from local ecological niche for the presence of vegetative insecticidal protein (vip) genes and its characterization. PCR screening was carried out to determine different vip genes viz., vip1/vip2 and vip3 genes, harboured by native Bt isolates using four gene specific primers. The PCR results depicted the presence of all three vip-type genes in these isolates. Strains containing vip3-type genes were the most abundant (12.5%) in local isolates, followed by vip1/vip2-type genes (10%). Insect bioassays for these proteins were conducted against Helicoverpa armigera (H. armigera). Four Bt isolates PDKV-08 (161.80), PDKV-21 (173.62), NCIM-5110 (170.57) and NCIM-5132 (178.61) depict lower LC50 values against H. armigera than the standard HD-1 (190.42). The present foundation work can be used for the production of more effective Bt based biopesticide and the identified genes can be explored for the production of next generation insect resistant transgenic plants.

Bt; Vegetative insecticidal proteins; Insect bioassay

In nature, some microorganisms have the potential to produce useful biological agents capable of infecting other living organisms including insects. Many of these infectious agents have a narrow host range and are non toxic to beneficial insects or vertebrates (Glazer and Nikaido, 1995). Therefore, the use of these microorganisms has been developed as the biological way of pest control. Viruses (baculoviruses), some fungi, protozoa and bacteria have been used as biological pest control agents for insects. Amongst all, Bt is the most important microorganism having entomopathogenic activity against certain insect orders.

In addition to the crystal associated toxic polypeptides, some insecticidal proteins produced during vegetative growth of the bacteria have also been identified called as vegetative insecticidal proteins (VIPs). These proteins were reported from about 15 per cent of the Bt strains analyzed (Estruch et al., 1996). According to the encoded amino acid sequence similarity the Bt nomenclature committee classified these 103 kinds of vegetative insecticidal protein genes into four groups viz. vip1, vip2, vip3 and vip4, eight subgroups, 29 classes and 103 subclasses (Crickmore, 2012). The vip1 and vip2 proteins are the components of the binary toxin that exhibits toxicity to the coleopterans (Warren, 1997). Vip1Aa1 and vip2Aa1 are very active against corn rootworms, particularly Diabrotica virgife. longicornis (Hann et al., 1999); whereas, vip3 toxins have Lepidoperan specificity (Estruch et al., 1996, Warren, 1997). The transgenic cotton, VipCot, developed by Syngenta in 1994 provides cotton growers a way to control bollworms which offers the added benefit of protecting cotton plants from armyworm and loopers.

Worldwide, there are several reports of field evolved resistance in H. armigera against Cry toxins (Van Rensburg, 2007, Dhurua and Gujar, 2011). Resistance has been reported to develop in Australia (Mahon et al., 2007); USA ( oppbppd1 /biopesticides/ pips/Bt_corn_refuge_2007.html.); Arizona state of USA (Van Rensburg, 2007, Tabashnik et al., 2008); China (Liu et al., 2008). Also, in India resistance scenario is becoming a matter of great concern, pink bollworm has already developed resistance against Cry1Ac (Dhurua and Gujar, 2011, Tabashnik and Carriere, 2010). Similarly, H. armigera from Bathinda and Muktsar (Punjab) have reported to develop resistance against Cry1Ac (Kaur and Dilawari, 2011). Apart from using various field adopted insect resistance management (IRM) strategies, molecular IRM strategies have potent genes/protein to overcome the resistant population. It is a suitable alternative to sustain the success of Bt transgenic technology in India.

The discovery of novel genes from native Bt can overcome the unavoidable resistance development in insects. The present study has explored the native isolates of Bt to screen the presence of vip genes and its diversity. This study also promises to yield more potent strain of Bt than standard Bt. By exploring the possibilities of getting new and more potent Bt vegetative insecticidal protein genes, we can overcome or prolong by increasing insect resistance against Bt toxins.

1 Results
1.1 Molecular screening of local Bt isolates
Four isolates viz. PDKV-08, PDKV-27, PDKV-28 and NCIM-5112, showed amplification for vip1/vip2 gene with expected size of 742 bp (Figure 1). vip1/vip2 proteins have prime future prospects due to potent insecticidal activity against coleopteran insect pest. Warren in 1997 reported 11.9% a bundance of vip1/vip2 gene amongst 463 Bt isolates. Shi et al. (2006) also confirmed that these two genes are located on single operon and co-expressed.


Figure 1 Screening of Bt isolates for the presence of vip1/vip2 binary toxin gene

Twenty eight local isolates, eleven different Bt strains and reference strain HD1 were surveyed for the presence of vip3A genes. Amongst 40 strains 5 strains viz., PDKV-08, PDKV-21, NCIM-5110, NCIM-5132 and HD-1 showed the presence of vip3A gene by using vip3A (partial) primer (Figure 2A). 


Figure 2 Screening of Bt isolates for the presence of vip3A genes

However, vip3A (full length) primer showed the presence of vip3A gene in four isolates viz. PDKV-21, NCIM-5132, NCIM-5130 and HD-1. Percent abundance data showed 15% abundance of vip3A gene in local Bt isolates (Figure 2B). Out of 40 isolates five isolates viz. PDKV-3, PDKV-8, NCIM-5110, NCIM-5132 and HD-1 showed successful amplification of vip3Aa1 gene with expected size of 2400 bp.

In total, three types of vip genes (vip1, vip2, and vip3) were identified from the available Bt strains with the primer pairs of vip1/vip2, vip3A partial, vip3A full length, and vip3Aa1. Some types of vip gene were not identified in certain strains. 

1.2 SDS PAGE profiling of different vip proteins
SDS-PAGE was performed for the total protein extracted from all 40 supernatants although several common bands (Figure 3) were detected among some strains. Overall results clearly demonstrated a strain-specific pattern of polypeptide secretion in the culture medium, which reflect final insecticidal potential of the respective isolate. The PDKV-8 isolate displayed significant high larvae mortality against lepidopteran pest (Table 1). PDKV-08 have particularly relevant band in the position of the putative VIP3A-like polypeptide (88 kD,) appeared much more intense than in all others lanes (Figure 3). Also, strains PDKV-21, NCIM-5132, NCIM-5110 and HD-1 showed the presence of 88 kD band which already depicts positive results in molecular screening for vip3A gene specific primer. 


Figure 3 SDS PAGE electrophoretogram of different vip proteins M- unstained protein molecular weight marker



Table 1 Toxicity of partially purified toxin from different Bt isolates for H. armigera

1.3 Insect bioassay to study the insecticidal potential
Four isolates of Bt were subjected for insect bioassay viz. PDKV-8, PDKV-21, NCIM-5110 and NCIM-5132 with HD-1 as standard reference strain. Four isolates were selected as a representative samples as PDKV-08, NCIM-5110 and NCIM-5132 showed vip3A and vip3Aa1 apart from this, PDKV08 also found to harbour vip1/vip2. PDKV-21 showed the presence of very prominent vip3A gene (Figure 4). 


Figure 4 Insect bioassay of vip toxins against H. armigera

The molecular analysis and protein electrophoretogram of vip proteins strongly supported the presence of vip3 proteins in selected isolates to study their insecticidal activity. Though there was no high magnitude difference in the LC50 values. The all test isolates showed lower LC50 values than reference strain as showed in table 1. Insect bioassay is considered as very important and confirmation studies with respect to the insecticidal protein. 

2 Discussins
The present investigation was carried out to characterize Bt isolates obtained from native ecological niche for the presence of different vip genes and also to explore the possibility of getting any new vip gene (s). The recent insect resistance scenario prompted us to attempt this study. It is first attempt to study the distribution of different vip genes in local Bt isolates from Vidarbha region of Maharashtra (India).

It has been reported that vip proteins account for about 15% of the Bt strains (30). With the three pairs of primers, we found that the average rates of vip3A (12.5%) was the most and the average rates of vip1/vip2 (10%) were similar with the results reported by Herna´ndez-Rodrı´guez et al. (2009). Whereas in present finding, abundance of vip like genes are not more than 12.5%. Other researchers have reported such lower frequencies of vip genes: 23.2% (Rice, 1999), 2% (Selvapandiyan et al., 2001) and 33.3% (Bhalla et al., 2005). However, Loguericio et al. (Loguercio et al., 2002) and Fang et al. (Fang et al., 2007) reported the presence of vip like genes in all the isolates, Beard et al. (Beard et al., 2008) also showed the similar trends. Yu et al. (2010), found 67.4% abundance of vip3 type of genes in from Sichuan basin in China. Similarly, Liu et al. (2008), found 63.03%. High abundance of vip genes in these reports are contradictory to our findings. This might be due to difference in habitat, geographical location and other environmental conditions.

The main purpose of our research was finding insecticidal proteins for Lepidoptera. Therefore, this study concentrated on finding novel vip3-type genes. We have found five novel vip genes, which could enrich the available categories of insecticidal genes. However, our isolates had very few novel vip genes. The reason why there were only five novel vip3 genes in screened Bt strains might be that the vip genes (three groups of vip genes have been researched) were more conserved than cry genes (67 groups of cry genes have been researched), and the referenced method may not be the best way to probe for vip genes (Fang et al., 2007). Therefore, we should find better ways to identify novel genes.

To find toxicity of vip3 for H. armigera, the four novel vip proteins of the screened Bt strains were assayed with H. armigera. The partially purified proteins of Bt were bioassayed against H. armigera with positive and negative controls. The bioassay results indicated that the 4 screened Bt samples really include novel vip3 genes. The presence of different insecticidal genes detected, may account for variation in the toxicity of these isolates. According to Monnerat et al. (Monnerat et al., 2007) the greater potency of these isolates than Bt-kurastaki HD 1 against the target insects may be due to (i) variation in the number of genes harbour by the isolates, (ii) higher level of accumulation of toxins, (iii) the presence of other Bt toxin genes that are not detected by the primers used in the screening (iv) combination of all these factors.

3 Materials and Methods
3.1 Local Bt strains used in present investigation

40 local Bt strains were subjected for molecular screening. Out of these, 28 isolates (PDKV-01 to 28) were isolated by Kedar, S.B. 2011 from the campus of Dr. Panjabrao Deshmukh Krishi Vidyapeeth, Akola and Nagpur campus of Dr. PDKV. Reference strain HD1 was kindly supplied by Dr. Donald Dean (Bacillus Genetic Stock Centre, Columbus, Ohio). Similarly eleven different subspecies of Bt were obtained from NCIM (National Center for Industrially useful Microbes (NCIM)), NCL, Pune.

3.2 Total genomic DNA isolation and PCR screening of Bt isolates
Genomic DNA was isolated from the Bt isolates as per the method given by Kate Wilson (Wilson, 1997). All PCR amplifications were performed by using the gradient thermal cycler (EP gradient, Eppendorf). Isolates were tested for the presence of vip genes with primers indicated in Table 2.


Table 2 The primers for identification of vip genes and finding novel vip3-type genes

After the positive screening of Bt isolates for the presence of vip genes attempts are made to harbour the full length vip genes. Three primers are designed on the basis of full length vip gene sequences to amplify the coding DNA sequences (cds) of vip genes. PCR results were analysed by using 1.2% agarose gel.

3.3 Isolation of vegetative insecticidal proteins

According to the method given by Sattar et al. (2008) vegetative insecticidal proteins were obtained for insect bioassay. Proteins present in the supernatant were precipitated with ammonium sulphate [(NH4)2SO4] (80% saturation) and collected by centrifugation at 12 000 g for 10 min at 4℃. The pellet was re-suspended in minimum volume of 20 mM of Tris-HCl buffer (pH 7.4) and dialyzed overnight at 4℃ against 20 mM Tris HCl (pH 7.4).

The purified proteins were estimated by the Bradford method (Bradford, 1976) and used for insect toxicity assay.

3.4 SDS-PAGE profiling of vip proteins of Bt
Vegetative insecticidal proteins were performed by using 10% Sodium Dodecyl Sulphate Polyacrylamide Gel Electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) according to method given in protocol Sambrook and Russell (Sambrook and Russell, 2007).

3.5 Insect Bioassay for determining insecticidal potential of vip proteins
Biological activity of vip3A toxins were confirmed by using standard bioassay procedures. Lepidoptera bioassays against H. amigera neonates were conducted with diet incorporation method (Yu et al., 1997). Bt subsp. kurstaki was used as positive control. In each experimental set, ten such neonates were released and observed after each 12 hrs.

4 Conclusions

The study led to the identification of a novel vip3A gene, which is known to effective, against coleopterans. It is necessary to study the effect against insect pests, clone these genes into a plant expression vector, transform crop plants and study their effectiveness against different insect pests.

Authors’ contributions
PS conducted all the research for this paper and prepared the manuscript. DD participated in bioassays and molecular characterization. AD coordinated the protein isolation, purification and profiling experiments. Molecular screening and characterization was performed in supervision of PJ and MS. The insect bioassays were carried out under supervision of NS. MM reviewed the manuscript and coordinated the project.

Authors are thankful to Head, Department of Agril Botany and Officer In-charge, Biotechnology Centre, Dr. Panjabrao Deshmukh Agricultural University, Akola, for their support.

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