Whitefly (Bemisia tabaci) damages field crops by sucking sap and transmitting viral diseases. None of the insecticidal proteins used in genetically modified (GM) crop plants to date are effective against whitefly. We report the identification of a protein (Tma12) from an edible fern, Tectaria macrodonta (Fee) C. Chr., that is insecticidal to whitefly (median lethal concentration = 1.49 μg/ml in in vitro feeding assays) and interferes with its life cycle at sublethal doses. Transgenic cotton lines that express Tma12 at ∼0.01% of total soluble leaf protein were resistant to whitefly infestation in contained field trials, with no detectable yield penalty. The transgenic cotton lines were also protected from whitefly-borne cotton leaf curl viral disease. Rats fed Tma12 showed no detectable histological or biochemical changes, and this, together with the predicted absence of allergenic domains in Tma12, indicates that Tma12 might be well suited for deployment in GM crops to control whitefly and the viruses it carries.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
A.K.S., S.K.U., R.S., M.M., S. Saurabh, H.S., N.T., P.P., A.L.H. and V.R. are supported by CSIR. P.R. and S.K.Y. are supported by the Indian Council of Medical Research. S. Srivastava is supported by the University Grant Commission. R.T. is supported by a Department of Science and Technology (DST) JC Bose National Fellowship.