Fitness costs of resistance to Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) crops occur in the absence of Bt toxins, when individuals with resistance alleles are less fit than individuals without resistance alleles. As costs of Bt resistance are common, refuges of non-Bt host plants can delay resistance not only by providing susceptible individuals to mate with resistant individuals, but also by selecting against resistance. Because costs typically vary across host plants, refuges with host plants that magnify costs or make them less recessive could enhance resistance management. Limited understanding of the physiological mechanisms causing fitness costs, however, hampers attempts to increase costs. In several major cotton pests including pink bollworm (Pectinophora gossypiella), resistance to Cry1Ac cotton is associated with mutations altering cadherin proteins that bind this toxin in susceptible larvae. Here we report that the concentration of gossypol, a cotton defensive chemical, was higher in pink bollworm larvae with cadherin resistance alleles than in larvae lacking such alleles. Adding gossypol to the larval diet decreased larval weight and survival, and increased the fitness cost affecting larval growth, but not survival. Across cadherin genotypes, the cost affecting larval growth increased as the gossypol concentration of larvae increased. These results suggest that increased accumulation of plant defensive chemicals may contribute to fitness costs associated with resistance to Bt toxins.
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