Insect resistance results from expression of the Cry1Ab gene encoding an insecticidal Bt protein that causes lysis and cell death in susceptible insect larvae by binding to midgut epithelial cells, which is a key determinant of Cry toxin species specificity. Whilst whole animal studies are still recognised as the ‘gold standard’ for safety assessment, they only provide indirect evidence for changes at the cellular/organ/tissue level. In contrast, omics-based technologies enable mechanistic understanding of toxicological or nutritional events at the cellular/receptor level. To address this important knowledge-gap and to gain insights into the underlying molecular responses in rat to MON810, differential gene expression in the epithelial cells of the small intestine of rats fed formulated diets containing MON810, its near isogenic line, two conventional corn varieties, and a commercial (Purina™) corn-based control diet were investigated using comparative proteomic profiling. Pairwise and five-way comparisons showed that the majority of proteins that were differentially expressed in the small intestine epithelial cells in response to consumption of the different diets in both 7-day and 28-day studies were related to lipid and carbohydrate metabolism and protein biosynthesis. Irrespective of the diet, a limited number of stress-related proteins were shown to be differentially expressed. However these stress-related proteins differed between diets. No adverse clinical or behavioural effects, or biomarkers of adverse health, were observed in rats fed GM corn compared to the other corn diets. These findings suggest that MON810 has negligible effects on the small intestine of rats at the cellular level compared with the well-documented toxicity observed in susceptible insects.
Fig. 1 Performance of Wistar male rats fed different corn-based diets in 7-day feeding studies: a change in body weight gain (g); b food consumption (g); c feed conversion efficiency (FCE) over trial period. Values presented are ± SD; n = 4. Diets: Commercial, Purina rodent chow; Control, non-transgenic parental variety from which MON810 was derived; Test, transgenic Bt corn grain (MON810); Reference 1, Garst 8450; Reference 2, Golden Harvest H8920 (as detailed in Table S1 and S2).