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Türk. entomol. bult., 2010, 1 (1): 000-000

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Orijinal araştırma
Molecular characterization and virulence of the entomopathogenic fungus Beauveria bassiana from Ostrinia nubilalis (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae)
The European corn borer (Ostrinia nubilalis, Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) is one of the most important pest of maize and other crops, such as potato, green pepper, and winter wheat almost all over the world. In this study, we collected larvae from corn fields invaded by O. nubilalis during 2008-2010 in the Eastern Black Sea Region of Turkey and investigated fungal pathogens of this pest. As result of this investigation, one fungal species was isolated from O. nubilalis and it was characterized according to morphological and molecular characteristics. Based on these characteristics, the isolate was identified as Beauveria bassiana. Additionally, insecticidal activity of the isolate was determined on O. nubilalis larvae by testing different concentrations of conidia (1 × 104, 1 × 105, 1 × 106, 1 × 107 and 1 × 108 conidia ml-1). It caused 80% mortality within 13 days after inoculation of 1 × 108 conidia ml-1. Mycosis was calculated as 70% and LC50 value was also calculated as 4.8 × 105 conidia ml-1. These results indicate that Beauveria bassiana Ost3 seems to be a good candidate as biocontrol agent against O. nubilalis.
Key words: Beauveria bassiana, european corn borer, corn, LC50

Anahtar sözcükler: Beauveria bassiana, mısır kurdu, mısır, LC50

1 This study has been accepted as poster presentation at 4nd Crop Protection Congress of Turkey held on 28-30 June 2011 in Kahramanmaraş and it has been published as an abstract.

2 Department of Biology, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Karadeniz Technical University, 61080 Trabzon, TURKEY

3 Department of Biology, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Rize University, 53100 Rize, TURKEY

* Corresponding author e-mail:

The European corn borer (ECB), Ostrinia nubilalis (Hubner) (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) is known as one of the most important pest of maize (Zea mays), causing worldwide crop losses estimated at 7 % (Gaspers, 2009). Apart from maize, there are more than 200 plants such as hemp, hop, peppers, sorghum, cowpea, soybean, beans and cotton which can serve as hosts for ECB (Lewis, 1975; Gasper, 2009). Conventional control of O. nubilalis relies to a large extent on the use of foliar chemical insecticides such as Carbaryl 5%, Profenofos 500 g/L, Thiodicarb 80%, Methomyl 90% and Chlorpyrifos-ethyl 480 g/L (Hoffmann et al., 2002; Anonymous, 2008). In terms of biological control, an effective method to prevent an infestation and damage to maize is the cultivation of Bt-maize. Larvae of O. nubilalis die when feeding on these plants, because Bt-maize carries a modified gene of the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis which enables the expression of a toxin specific against Lepidopterans during the whole cultivation period (Gasper, 2009).

Entomopathogenic fungi are important natural enemies of arthropods and can be used for biological control. Most attention has been given to fungal pathogens of insects, which are widespread in nature and are being exploited to control pests through introduction and augmentation (Chandler et al., 2000; Goettel et al., 2005; Shah & Pell, 2003; Gökçe & Er, 2005). Entomopathogenic fungi differ from other insect pathogens because they are able to infect through the host’s integument, so ingestion is unnecessary and infection is not limited to chewing insects (Fuxa, 1987). Thus they can provide the only practical means of microbial control of insects that feed by sucking plant or animal juices, and for the many coleopteran and acridid pests, which have very few known viral or bacterial diseases (St Leger & Roberts, 1997).

Beauveria species attack many insect species worldwide. Species range from the ubiquitous insect pathogen B. bassiana (Balsamo) Vuillemin to rare species but the entomogenous life-style is prevalent (Glare, 2004; Glare et al., 2008; Sevim et al., 2010a). Currently, six species of this genus are recognized: B. bassiana, B. bassiana cf. Clade C, B. brongniartii, B. caledonica, B. vermiconia and B. amorpha (Glare, 2004; Glare & Inwood 1998, 2008; Sevim et al., 2010b; Rehner & Buckley, 2005). Among these species, considerable effort has been spent to develop B. bassiana as a biological control agent in agriculture and forestry in temperate regions and the most widely used species available commercially is B. bassiana (Meyling & Eilenberg, 2007; Goettel et al., 2005). Up to now, the entomopathogenic fungus Beauveria bassiana (Balsamo) Vuillemin has been extensively used for the control of many important pests of various crops around the world and it has been tested on different target insects (Campbell et al., 1985; Leathers & Gupta, 1993; Padmaja & Kaur, 2001; Tafoya et al., 2004; Todorova et al., 2002; Sevim et al. 2010a; Sevim et al. 2010b).

In this study, we isolated and characterized B. bassiana isolate Ost3 and tested its effectiveness on O. nubilalis larvae as a possible biocontrol agent. This isolate seems to be a promising candidate as a possible biocontrol agent against this pest.

Material and Methods
Collection of larvae
Larvae of O. nubilalis were collected from the Eastern Black Sea Region of Turkey between 2008-2010. Larvae were removed from inside of corn stems by cutting a scalpel and collected larvae were placed individually into plastic boxes (20 mm). A small corn stem was provided as food. The collected larvae were immediately taken to the laboratory and were regularly checked for possible any fungal infection. Fungus isolation was done from the mycosed larvae.
Isolation of fungi
The fungus was isolated from dead larvae showing external mycelia growth at outside of cadaver. A small part of mycelia was taken from cadaver by using an inoculation loop, and then the mycelium was placed on Sabouraud dextrose agar medium with 1% yeast extract (SDAY medium, Difco Laboratories) including 50 µg/ml ampicillin (AppliChem) and 50 µg/ml tetracycline (AppliChem) to prevent bacterial growth. After obtaining of pure culture, it was kept in a refrigerator at + 4°C and was subcultured monthly. Glycerol stock was prepared by adding spores into microcentrifuge tubes including 10% glycerol and was stored at -80°C.

Morphological identification
Morphological identification of the isolate was done according to identification key prepared by Dr. Richard Humber (Humber, 1997). The appearance of dead larvae, the shape of colony and spores and the size of spores were used for initial identification process.
DNA extraction and gene sequencing
The fungus was derived from single conidial spores grown on SDAY plates. To do this, conidia from culture on SDAY plate were suspended in 0.1% tween 80 up to 105 conidia ml-1 and were plated on Potato Dextrose Agar (PDA) (Merck, Germany) and incubated for 2 days at 25°C under 12:12 photoperiod. At the end of the incubation period, single colony was used to inoculate into 250 ml flask containing 100 ml Potato Dextrose Broth (PDB) (Merck, Germany). Liquid culture was shaken at 250 rpm at 28ºC for 1-2 weeks. After the incubation, mycelia were collected by filtering, frozen into liquid nitrogen, crushed with mortar and 50 mg fungal mycelia were used for DNA extraction. Total genomic DNA was extracted using Nucleospin Plant kit (50 preps). Isolated DNAs were stored at -20ºC until use.

The ITS1-5.8S-ITS2 region of the nuclear rRNA-complex was examined for the isolate to confirm strain identification. Oligonucleotide primers ITS4 (5’– CTCCGCTTATTGATATGC–3’) as reverse primer and ITS5 (5’– GGAAGTAAAAGTCGTAACAAGG–3’) as forward primer were used for ITS PCR-amplification (White et al., 1990). PCR amplifications were performed in a total volume of 50 µl, which included 5 µl 10X Taq DNA polymerase reaction buffer, 200 µM of each dNTPs, 50 pmol each of the opposing amplification primers, 2,5 unit Taq-DNA polymerase (Fermentase), and 50 ng genomic DNA. Thirty-five cycles were conducted in thermocycler (Eppendorf, mastercycler gradient, Hamburg, Germany): After the denaturation at 95ºC for 5 min, 95º C for 1 min, 55ºC for 55 s, 72ºC for 2 min, with a final extension at 72ºC for 10 min.

Approximately 1200 bp fragment of EF1-α was also amplified by using primers (EF1T (5’-ATGGGTAAGGARGACAAGAC-3’) and 1567R (5’-ACHGTRCCRATACCACCSATCTT-3’) (Rehner & Buckley, 2005). PCR conditions were adapted essentially as described by Rehner & Buckley (2005). PCR products were separated on %1 agarose gel and visualized under UV light. Amplification products were extracted from agarose gels with the QIAquick Gel Extraction Kit (50) and sent to MACROGEN (Korea) for sequencing. Obtained sequences were used to carry out BLAST searches by using the NCBI GenBank database to confirm isolate identification. In addition, sequences were used to compare the representative sequences from the study that were included for comparison of Beauveria strains of Rehner & Buckley (2005) (Table 1).

Table 1. Genbank sequences data of fungal isolates used in this study (Rehner & Buckley, 2005).






Accession number



Beauveria bassiana



Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae




B. bassiana







B. bassiana


People’s Republic of China

Homoptera: Delphacidae




B. brongniartii



Coleoptera: Cerambycidae




B. brongniartii



Coleoptera: Rhizophagidae




B. brongniartii



Coleoptera: Cerambycidae




B. cf. bassiana



Hemiptera: Tingidae




B. cf. bassiana



Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae




B. celedonica







B. vermiconia







B. amorpha



Hymenoptera: Formicidae




Cordyceps cf. scarabaeicola


S. Korea





a Clades names were given according to Rehner and Buckley (2005); b – indicates not available

A hundred micro liter spore suspension of the fungal isolate (1 × 106 conidia ml-1) was plated on SDAY medium and incubated at 25°C for 3-4 weeks under 16-h photoperiod. After growth period, conidia were harvested from 3-week-old cultures by adding 10 ml of sterile distilled water supplemented with 0.1% tween 80. The conidial suspension was filtered through two layers of sterile muslin into 50 ml plastic tube (falkon) and then shaken for 5 min using a vortex. The concentrations of conidial suspension were adjusted to desired concentration using a Neubauer haemocytometer. The viability of conidia of the isolate was determined by inoculating them onto PDAY and assessing the germination after 24 h of incubation at 25°C and under 12:12 photoperiod. Conidia were considered to have germinated if the germ tube was longer than the diameter of the conidium. Isolates with a viability of above 95% were used for bioassay experiments.

Larvae of O. nubilalis were collected from naturally infested corn field in the Eastern Black Sea Region of Turkey and were used for the pathogenicity test. They were randomly selected and treated with six different doses of conidial suspension of the isolate (1 × 104, 1 × 105, 1 × 106, 1 × 107 and 1 × 108 conidia ml-1). The control group was treated with sterile water including 0.1% Tween 80. For each replicate, 10 last instar larvae were used an all experiments were repeated three times. Corn stems were collected from fields and cut into 10 cm length by a scalpel. Then, these 10 cm pieces were longitudinally divided into two parts in equal, and a rectangle shaped hole was dug by a blade in the middle of both pieces of divided stems. Larvae were treated by dipping into 10 ml of conidial suspension, and then put into these holes. After that, other piece of stem was closed on the first and sealed with a rubber band to keep them tight. Finally, all stems were put into plastic boxes (15 mm) and incubated at room temperature. Mortalities were checked every 24 h. Dead larvae were taken and subjected to surface sterilization by dipping into 2% hypochlorite followed by 70% ethanol and sterile water. Finally, they were put into the moisture chamber to encourage fungal sporulation outside of the cadaver.

Data analysis
Sequences were assembled and edited with BioEdit and aligned (Hall, 1999). Cluster analyses of the sequences was performed using BioEdit (version 7.09) with Clustal W followed by Kimura-2 parameter analysis (Kimura, 1980) with neighbor joining analysis on aligned sequences was performed with MEGA 4.0 software (Tamura et al., 2007). Alignment gaps were treated as missing data. Reliability of phylograms was tested by bootstrap analysis with 1000 replicates using MEGA 4.0.

Mortality values were corrected according to Abbott’s formula (Abbott, 1925). Mortality data after 13 days were subjected to ANOVA and subsequently to Dunnett’s one-tailed t-test to compare concentrations against the control with respect to mortality. To determine differences among different concentrations, the data were subjected to ANOVA and subsequently to LSD multiple comparison test. LC50 value was calculated with probit analysis by using SPSS 15.0 software.

Nucleotide sequence GenBank accessions number
The accession number of the sequences of ITS and EF1-α are HQ454299 and HQ454300, respectively.
We conducted a study to investigate fungal infection of O. nubilalis larvae collected from corn fields in the Eastern Black Sea Region of Turkey between 2008-2010. After collecting larvae from several regions, we were able to determine only one isolate from larvae which was covered with white mycelia. Based on its morphological features, it was identified as Beauveria bassiana. Additionally, we sequenced ITS1-5.8S-ITS2 and partial sequence of EF1-α to confirm isolate identification. Molecular characteristics also showed that this isolate was similar to B. bassiana and was named as Ost3. According to the dendrogram based on ITS and EF1-α sequence, the isolate Ost3 was very similar to Brazilian isolate B. bassiana ARSEF937 (Figure 1; 2).

Figure 1. Pyhlogenetic position of the isolate Ost3 within Beauveria genus based on ITS1-5.8S-ITS2 sequence. Representative strains were taken from the study of Rehner and Buckley (2005). Bootstrap value is shown next to nodes are base on 1000 replicates. Bootstrap values C≥50% are labeled. The tree was rooted using isolate Cordyceps cf. scarabaeicola as the outgroup.

Figure 2. Pyhlogenetic position of the isolate Ost3 within Beauveria genus based on EF1-α sequence. Representative strains were taken from the study of Rehner and Buckley (2005). Bootstrap value is shown next to nodes are base on 1000 replicates. Bootstrap values C≥50% are labeled. The tree was rooted using isolate Cordyceps cf. scarabaeicola as the outgroup.
The effectiveness of the isolate Ost3 on O. nubilalis larvae was tested under laboratory conditions. We observed 80% mortality value from the isolate Ost3 within 13 days after inoculation of 1 × 108 conidia ml-1 and mycosis value was calculated as 70%. We also performed concentration-mortality response test to calculate LC50 value. All concentrations were different from the control group (F=14.19, df=5, P<0.05) and there were significant differences among concentrations (F=8.98, df=4, P<0.05). Based on the probit analysis, the LC50 of this fungus against larvae 13 days after treatment was determined to be 4.8 × 105 conidia ml-1 (Figure 3; Table 2).

Figure 3. Cumulative mortality of O. nubilalis larvae after application of the isolate Ost3 at different doses of conidia.

Table 2. Summary of Probit analysis parameters from the multiple-concentration bioassays performed with the B. bassiana isolate Ost3 against larvae of O. nubilalis.



Slope (±SE)a

LC50 (95% Fiducial limits)





0.404 ± 0.139

4.8 × 105 (1.6 × 104 – 5.6 × 106)



aSlope of the concentration (±standard error) response of larvae of O. nubilalis to the B. bassiana isolate Ost3.

b Pearson chi-square goodness-of-fit test on the Probit model (α= 0.05).

There is an increasing demand to find out more effective and safe biocontrol agent against insect pests in both agriculture and forest to decrease hazardous effects of chemical insecticides to environment and to provide sustainable control. Since entomopathogenic fungi can infect their host by attaching on the host integument and O. nubilalis live in the corn stems, B. bassiana should be considered as an alternative for controlling O. nubilalis populations. Therefore, we investigated fungal pathogens of O. nubilalis as a possible biocontrol agent that can be used in the Eastern Black Sea Region of Turkey. We were able to isolate one isolate and identified it as B. bassiana.

Numerous entomopathogenic fungi are currently used to control insect pests. The entomopathogenic fungus B. bassiana is a well-known, naturally occurring and widely distributed natural pathogen of various lepidopteran pests worldwide and products based on this species are available for use against a very wide variety of insect pests, from banana weevils (Cosmopolites sordidus) in Brazil, pine caterpillars (Dendrolimus spp.) in China, to the European corn borer, and greenhouse aphids in the Western world (Goettel et al., 2005; Sevim et al., 2010b; Wraight et al., 2010; Zurek & Keddie, 2000; Legaspi et al., 2000). Although many authors provide experiments in an interaction between O. nubilalis population and B. bassiana, and pathogenicity of B. bassiana against O. nubilalis in the field and laboratory conditions (Wagner & Lewis, 2000; Feng et al., 1985, 1988; Bing & Lewis, 1993; Cagan & Uhlik, 1999; Carruthers et al., 1985), this is the first study of molecular characterization B. bassiana from O. nubilalis. It is known that the success of control can be higher when native isolates are used against the target insect because of the ecological compatibility of the fungal species with certain environmental conditions. Therefore, isolate Ost3 can be considered as a possible biocontrol agent against O. nubilalis in the Eastern Black Sea Region of Turkey.

Isolate Ost3 produced 70% mycosis value on dead cadavers after inoculation of 1 × 108 conidia ml-1. Since sporulation on the host is important factor for fungal dissemination in the field, isolate Ost3 could be further investigated as a microbial control agent against O. nubilalis.

Environmental factors have great effects on efficacy of entomopathogenic fungi. In general, entomopathogenic fungi require high humidity for fast propagule germination and growing, high rainfall for transmission of propagules and to disperse conidia and, suitable temperature (for Hyphomycetous fungi, 20-25°C is the best temperature) for successful control (Inglis et al., 2001). In this content, the Eastern Black Sea region has favorable climatic conditions for applying entomopathogenic fungi because annual temperatures are lower and rainfall and moisture higher in this region. So, isolate Ost3 seem to be a good candidate as a possible biocontrol agent against O. nubilalis in the region because of the climatic conditions.

In conclusion, we showed that B. bassiana Ost1 has a good potential for further investigation as a possible biological control agent against O. nubilalis. Further studies are needed to determine the effectiveness of the isolate in the field. Mass production studies are also warranted.

Ostrinia nubilalis (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae)’den elde edilen entomopatojenik fungus Beauveria bassiana’nın moleküler karakterizasyonu ve virulansı
Mısır kurdu (Ostrinia nubilalis, Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) hemen hemen bütün dünyada mısır, patates, yeşil biber ve kışlık buğday gibi pek çok ürünün en önemli zararlılarından birisidir. Bu çalışmada, 2008-2010 yılları arasında Doğu Karadeniz Bölgesi’nde O. nubilalis tarafından istila edilmiş mısır tarlalarından böcek örnekleri toplanmış ve entomopatojenik fungus yönünden araştırılmıştır. Bu araştırmanın sonucu olarak, O. nubilalis’ten bir fungal örnek izole edildi ve onun morfolojik ve moleküler verilere göre karakterizasyonu yapıldı. Bu karakterlere göre izolat Beauveria bassiana olarak tanımlandı. İlave olarak, bu izolatın O. nubilalis larvaları üzerindeki insektisidal aktivitesi farklı konsantrasyonlarda spor süspansiyonları (1 × 104, 1 × 105, 1 × 106, 1 × 107 and 1 × 108 spor/ml) kullanılarak belirlendi. Uygulama sonrasında, Ost3 1 × 108 spor/ml spor konsantrasyonun uygulanmasından sonra 13 gün içerisinde larvalar üzerinde %80 ölüm oranına neden oldu. Mikoz %70 ve LC50 değeri ise 4.8 × 105 spor/ml olarak hesaplandı. Bu sonuçlar, Beauveria bassiana Ost3’ün O. nubilalis’e karşı biyolojik mücadele etmeni olarak iyi bir aday olduğunu göstermektedir.
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