The mode of action of the Bacillus thuringiensis vegetative insecticidal protein Vip3A differs from that of Cry1Ab delta-endotoxin

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2003 Aug;69(8):4648-57. doi: 10.1128/AEM.69.8.4648-4657.2003.


The Vip3A protein, secreted by Bacillus spp. during the vegetative stage of growth, represents a new family of insecticidal proteins. In our investigation of the mode of action of Vip3A, the 88-kDa Vip3A full-length toxin (Vip3A-F) was proteolytically activated to an approximately 62-kDa core toxin either by trypsin (Vip3A-T) or lepidopteran gut juice extracts (Vip3A-G). Biotinylated Vip3A-G demonstrated competitive binding to lepidopteran midgut brush border membrane vesicles (BBMV). Furthermore, in ligand blotting experiments with BBMV from the tobacco hornworm, Manduca sexta (Linnaeus), activated Cry1Ab bound to 120-kDa aminopeptidase N (APN)-like and 250-kDa cadherin-like molecules, whereas Vip3A-G bound to 80-kDa and 100-kDa molecules which are distinct from the known Cry1Ab receptors. In addition, separate blotting experiments with Vip3A-G did not show binding to isolated Cry1A receptors, such as M. sexta APN protein, or a cadherin Cry1Ab ecto-binding domain. In voltage clamping assays with dissected midgut from the susceptible insect, M. sexta, Vip3A-G clearly formed pores, whereas Vip3A-F was incapable of pore formation. In the same assay, Vip3A-G was incapable of forming pores with larvae of the nonsusceptible insect, monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus (Linnaeus). In planar lipid bilayers, both Vip3A-G and Vip3A-T formed stable ion channels in the absence of any receptors, supporting pore formation as an inherent property of Vip3A. Both Cry1Ab and Vip3A channels were voltage independent and highly cation selective; however, they differed considerably in their principal conductance state and cation specificity. The mode of action of Vip3A supports its use as a novel insecticidal agent.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacillus thuringiensis Toxins
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Bacterial Proteins / pharmacology*
  • Bacterial Toxins*
  • Endotoxins / pharmacology*
  • Hemolysin Proteins
  • Insecticides / pharmacology*
  • Ion Channels / drug effects
  • Ion Channels / physiology
  • Manduca
  • Microvilli / metabolism


  • Bacillus thuringiensis Toxins
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Bacterial Toxins
  • Endotoxins
  • Hemolysin Proteins
  • Insecticides
  • Ion Channels
  • Vip3A protein, Bacillus thuringiensis
  • insecticidal crystal protein, Bacillus Thuringiensis