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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Baculovirus expression of the maize mitochondrial protein URF13 confers insecticidal activity in cell cultures and larvae.

The URF13 protein, which is encoded by the mitochondrial gene T-urf13, is responsible for cytoplasmic male sterility and pathotoxin sensitivity in the Texas male-sterile cytoplasm (cms-T) of maize. Mitochondrial sensitivity to two host-specific fungal toxins (T toxins) is mediated by the interaction of URF13 and T toxins to form pores in the inner mitochondrial membrane. A carbamate insecticide, methomyl, mimics the effects of T toxins on isolated cms-T mitochondria. URF13 was expressed in Spodoptera frugiperda (fall army-worm) cells (Sf9) in culture and in Trichoplusia ni (cabbage looper) larvae with a baculovirus vector. In insect cells, URF13 forms oligomeric structures in the membrane and confers T toxin or methomyl sensitivity. Adding T toxin or methomyl to Sf9 cells producing URF13 causes permeabilization of plasma membranes. In addition, URF13 is toxic to insect cells grown in culture without T toxins or methomyl; even a T-toxin-insensitive mutant form of URF13 is lethal to cell cultures. Baculoviruses expressing URF13 are lethal to T. ni larvae, at times postinjection comparable to those obtained by injecting a baculovirus expressing an insect neurotoxin. This result suggests that URF13 could be useful as a biological control agent for insect pests. Our data indicate that URF13 has two independent mechanisms for toxicity, one that is mediated by T toxin and methomyl and one that is independent of these toxins. Similarly, male sterility and toxin sensitivity in cms-T maize may be due to independent mechanisms.[1]


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