Recombinant expression of ABCC2 variants confirms the importance of mutations in extracellular loop 4 for Cry1F resistance in fall armyworm.
Fall armyworm (FAW), Spodoptera frugiperda, is a highly destructive and invasive global noctuid pest. Its control is based on insecticide applications and Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) insecticidal Cry toxins expressed in transgenic crops, such as Cry1F in Bt corn. Continuous selection pressure has resulted in populations that are resistant to Bt corn, particularly in Brazil. FAW resistance to Cry1F was recently shown to be conferred by mutations of ATP-binding cassette transporter C2 (ABCC2), but several mutations, particularly indels in extracellular loop 4 (ECL4), are not yet functionally validated. We addressed this knowledge gap by baculovirus-free insect cell expression of ABCC2 variants (and ABCC3) by electroporation technology and tested their response to Cry1F, Cry1A.105 and Cry1Ab. We employed a SYTOX™ orange cell viability test measuring ABCC2-mediated Bt toxin pore formation. In total, we tested seven different FAW ABCC2 variants mutated in ECL4, two mutants modified in nucleotide binding domain (NBD) 2, including a deletion mutant lacking NBD2, and S. frugiperda ABCC3. All tested ECL4 mutations conferred high resistance to Cry1F, but much less to Cry1A.105 and Cry1Ab, whereas mutations in NBD2 hardly affected Bt toxin activity. Our study confirms the importance of indels in ECL4 for Cry1F resistance in S. frugiperda ABCC2.