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Soil Biology and Biochemistry
42, No. 8, 2010; Pages: 1329 - 1337

Potential gene exchange between Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. kurstaki and Bacillus spp. in soil in situ

Francesca Donnarumma, Donatella Paffetti, Guenther Stotzky, Raffaello Giannini, Cristina Vettori

Department of Evolutionary Biology, University of Florence, via Romana 19, 50125 Florence, Italy.


The possible transfer of genes from Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. kurstaki (Btk) to indigenous Bacillus spp. was investigated in soil samples from stands of cork oak in Orotelli (Sardinia, Italy) collected 5 years after spraying of the stands with a commercial insecticidal preparation (FORAY 48B) of Btk. Two colonies with a morphology different from that of Btk were isolated and identified as Bacillus mycoides by morphological and physiological characteristics and by 16S rDNA analysis. Amplification by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) of the DNA of the two isolated B. mycoides colonies with primers used for the identification of the Btk cry genes showed the presence of a fragment of 238 bp of the cry1Ab9 gene that had a similarity of 100% with the sequence of the cry1Ab9 gene present in GenBank, indicating that the isolates of B. mycoides acquired part of the sequence of this gene from Btk. No cells of Btk or B. mycoides carrying the 238-bp fragment of the cry1Ab9 gene were isolated from samples of unsprayed control soil. However, the isolates of B. mycoides were not able to express the partial Cry1Ab protein. Hybridization with probes for IS231 and the cry1Ab9 gene suggested that the inverted repeated sequence, IS231, was probably involved in the transfer of the 238-bp fragment from Btk to B. mycoides. These results indicate that transfer of genes between introduced Btk and indigenous Bacillus spp. can occur in soil under field conditions.

Keywords: Horizontal gene transfer; Natural soil environment; Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. kurstaki; Bacillus mycoides; cry genes; Bacillus spp.



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