To clarify the environmental fate of the Cry1Ac protein from Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. kurstaki (Bt) contained in transgenic rice plant stubble after harvest, degradation was monitored under field conditions using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. In stalks, Cry1Ac protein concentration decreased rapidly to 50% of the initial amount during the first month after harvest; subsequently, the degradation decreased gradually reaching 21.3% when the experiment was terminated after 7 mo. A similar degradation pattern of the Cry1Ac protein was observed in rice roots. However, when the temperature increased in April of the following spring, protein degradation resumed, and no protein could be detected by the end of the experiment. In addition, a laboratory experiment was conducted to study the persistence of Cry1Ac protein released from rice tissue in water and paddy soil. The protein released from leaves degraded rapidly in paddy soil under flooded conditions during the first 20 d and plateaued until the termination of this trial at 135 d, when 15.3% of the initial amount was still detectable. In water, the Cry1Ac protein degraded more slowly than in soil but never entered a relatively stable phase as in soil. The degradation rate of Cry1Ac protein was significantly faster in nonsterile water than in sterile water. These results indicate that the soil environment can increase the degradation of Bt protein contained in plant residues. Therefore, plowing a field immediately after harvest could be an effective method for decreasing the persistence of Bt protein in transgenic rice fields.
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