The molecular mechanisms of insect resistance to Cry toxins generated from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) urgently need to be elucidated to enable the improvement and sustainability of Bt-based products. Although downregulation of the expression of midgut receptor genes is a pivotal mechanism of insect resistance to Bt Cry toxins, the underlying transcriptional regulation of these genes remains elusive. Herein, we unraveled the regulatory mechanism of the downregulation of the ABC transporter gene PxABCG1 (also called Pxwhite), a functional midgut receptor of the Bt Cry1Ac toxin in Plutella xylostella. The PxABCG1 promoters of Cry1Ac-susceptible and Cry1Ac-resistant strains were cloned and analyzed, and they showed clear differences in activity. Subsequently, a dual-luciferase reporter assay, a yeast one-hybrid (Y1H) assay, and RNA interference (RNAi) experiments demonstrated that a cis-mutation in a binding site of the Hox transcription factor Antennapedia (Antp) decreased the promoter activity of the resistant strain and eliminated the binding and regulation of Antp, thereby enhancing the resistance of P. xylostella to the Cry1Ac toxin. These results advance our knowledge of the roles of cis- and trans-regulatory variations in the regulation of midgut Cry receptor genes and the evolution of Bt resistance, contributing to a more complete understanding of the Bt resistance mechanism.

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Published in International Journal of Molecular Sciences, v. 22, issue 11, 6106.

© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31630059; 31701813; 32022074), the Beijing Key Laboratory for Pest Control and Sustainable Cultivation of Vegetables, and the Science and Technology Innovation Program of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS-ASTIP-IVFCAAS).

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