Insect pests cause serious damage in crop production, and various attempts have been made to produce insect-resistant crops, including the expression of genes for proteins with anti-herbivory activity, such as Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) toxins. However, the number of available genes with sufficient anti-herbivory activity is limited. MLX56 is an anti-herbivory protein isolated from the latex of mulberry plants, and has been shown to have strong growth-suppressing activity against the larvae of a variety of lepidopteran species. As a model of herbivore-resistant plants, we produced transgenic tomato lines expressing the gene for MLX56. The transgenic tomato lines showed strong anti-herbivory activities against the larvae of the common cutworm, Spodoptera litura. Surprisingly, the transgenic tomato lines also exhibited strong activity against the attack of western flower thrips, Frankliniera occidentalis. Further, growth of the hadda beetle, Henosepilachna vigintioctopunctata, fed on leaves of transgenic tomato was significantly retarded. The levels of damage caused by both western flower thrips and hadda beetles were negligible in the high-MLX56-expressing tomato line. These results indicate that introduction of the gene for MLX56 into crops can enhance crop resistance against a wide range of pest insects, and that MLX56 can be utilized in developing genetically modified (GM) pest-resistant crops.
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