Microbial populations and enzyme activities in soil in situ under transgenic corn expressing cry proteins from Bacillus thuringiensis

I. Icoz, D. Saxena, D. A. Andow, C. Zwahlen, G. Stotzky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Transgenic Bt crops produce insecticidal Cry proteins that are released to soil in plant residues, root exudates, and pollen and that may affect soil microorganisms. As a continuation of studies in the laboratory and a plant-growth room, a field study was conducted at the Rosemount Experiment Station of the University of Minnesota. Three Bt corn varieties that express the Cry1Ab protein, which is toxic to the European corn borer (Ostrinia nubilalis Hübner), and one Bt corn variety that expresses the Cry3Bb1 protein, which is toxic to the corn rootworm complex (Diabrotica spp.), and their near-isogenic non-Bt varieties were evaluated for their effects on microbial diversity by classical dilation plating and molecular (polymerase chain reaction-denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis) techniques and for the activities of some enzymes (arylsulfatases, acid and alkaline phosphatases, dehydrogenases, and proteases) involved in the degradation of plant biomass. After 4 consecutive years of corn cultivation (2003-2006), there were, in general, no consistent statistically significant, differences in the numbers of different groups of microorganisms, the activities of the enzymes, and the pH between soils planted with Bt and non-Bt corn. Numbers and types of microorganisms and enzyme activities differed with season and with the varieties of corn, but these differences were not related to the presence of the Cry proteins in soil. The Cry1Ab protein of Bt corn (events Bt11 and MON810) was detected in most soils during the 4 yr, whereas the Cry3Bb1 protein was not detected in soils of Bt corn (event MON863) expressing the cry3Bb1 gene.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)647-662
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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