Fine structural changes in the ileum of mice fed on delta-endotoxin-treated potatoes and transgenic potatoes

Nat Toxins. 1998;6(6):219-33. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1522-7189(199811/12)6:6<219::aid-nt30>;2-k.


The present work has been designed to study the effect of feeding on transgenic potatoes, which carry the CryI gene of Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki strain HD1, on the light and electron microscopic structure of the mice ileum, in comparison with feeding on potatoes treated with the 'delta-endotoxin' isolated from the same bacterial strain. The microscopic architecture of the enterocytes of the ileum of both groups of mice revealed certain common features such as the appearance of mitochondria with signs of degeneration and disrupted short microvilli at the luminal surface. However, in the group of mice fed on the 'delta-endotoxin', several villi appeared with an abnormally large number of enterocytes (151.8 in control group versus 197 and 155.8 in endotoxin and transgenic-treated groups, respectively). Fifty percent of these cells were hypertrophied and multinucleated. The mean area of enterocyte was significantly increased (105.3 microm(2) in control group versus 165.4 microm(2) and 116.5 microm(2) in endotoxin and transgenic-treated groups, respectively). Several forms of secondary lysosomes or auotophagic vacuoles were recognized in these cells. These changes were confirmed with the scanning electron microscope which revealed a remarkable increase in the topographic contour of enterocytes (23 microm in control group versus 44 microm and 28 microm in endotoxin and transgenic-treated groups, respectively) at the divulged surface of the villi. The basal lamina along the base of the enterocytes was damaged at several foci. Several disrupted microvilli appeared in association with variable-shaped cytoplasmic fragments. Some of these fragments contained endoplasmic reticulum, as well as ring-shaped annulate lamellae. In addition, the Paneth cells were highly activated and contained a large number of secretory granules. These changes may suggest that delta-endotoxin-treated potatoes resulted in the development of hyperplastic cells in the mice ileum. Although mild changes are reported in the structural configuration of the ileum of mice fed on transgenic potatoes, nevertheless, thorough tests of these new types of genetically engineered crops must be made to avoid the risks before marketing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacillus thuringiensis / genetics
  • Bacillus thuringiensis Toxins
  • Bacterial Proteins / toxicity*
  • Bacterial Toxins*
  • Endotoxins / toxicity*
  • Hemolysin Proteins
  • Ileum / pathology*
  • Ileum / ultrastructure
  • Insecticides / toxicity*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / pathology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / ultrastructure
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Plants, Genetically Modified
  • Solanum tuberosum / genetics*


  • Bacillus thuringiensis Toxins
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Bacterial Toxins
  • Endotoxins
  • Hemolysin Proteins
  • Insecticides
  • insecticidal crystal protein, Bacillus Thuringiensis