Evolution of pest resistance reduces the benefits of widely cultivated genetically engineered crops that produce insecticidal proteins derived from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). Better understanding of the genetic basis of pest resistance to Bt crops is needed to monitor, manage, and counter resistance. Previous work shows that in several lepidopterans, resistance to Bt toxin Cry2Ab is associated with mutations in the gene encoding the ATP-binding cassette protein ABCA2. The results here show that mutations introduced by CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing in the Helicoverpa zea (corn earworm or bollworm) gene encoding ABCA2 (HzABCA2) can cause resistance to Cry2Ab. Disruptive mutations in HzABCA2 facilitated the creation of two Cry2Ab-resistant strains. A multiple concentration bioassay with one of these strains revealed it had > 200-fold resistance to Cry2Ab relative to its parental susceptible strain. All Cry2Ab-resistant individuals tested had disruptive mutations in HzABCA2. We identified five disruptive mutations in HzABCA2 gDNA. The most common mutation was a 4-bp deletion in the expected Cas9 guide RNA target site. The results here indicate that HzABCA2 is a leading candidate for monitoring Cry2Ab resistance in field populations of H. zea.
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