To investigate the biochemical basis of the differences in the insecticidal spectrum of Bacillus thuringiensis insecticidal crystal proteins (ICPs), we performed membrane binding and toxicity assays with three different ICPs and three lepidopteran species. The three ICPs have different toxicity patterns in the three selected target species. Binding studies with these 125I-labeled ICPs revealed high-affinity saturable binding to brush border membrane vesicles of the sensitive species. ICPs with no toxicity against a given species did not bind saturably to vesicles of that species. Together with previous data that showed a correlation between toxicity and ICP binding, our data support the statement that differences in midgut ICP receptors are a major determinant of differences in the insecticidal spectrum of the entire lepidopteran-specific ICP family. Receptor site heterogeneity in the insect midgut occurs frequently and results in sensitivity to more than one type of ICP
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