Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a unique bacterium in that it shares a common place with a number of chemical compounds which are used commercially to control insects important to agriculture and public health. Although other bacteria, including B. popilliae and B. sphaericus, are used as microbial insecticides, their spectrum of insecticidal activity is quite limited compared to Bt. Importantly, Bt is safe for humans and is the most widely used environmentally compatible biopesticide worldwide. Furthermore, insecticidal Bt genes have been incorporated into several major crops, rendering them insect resistant, and thus providing a model for genetic engineering in agriculture. This review highlights what the authors consider the most relevant issues and topics pertaining to the genomics and proteomics of Bt. At least one of the authors (L.A.B.) has spent most of his professional life studying different aspects of this bacterium with the goal in mind of determining the mechanism(s) by which it kills insects. The other authors have a much shorter experience with Bt but their intellect and personal insight have greatly enriched our understanding of what makes Bt distinctive in the microbial world. Obviously, there is personal interest and bias reflected in this article notwithstanding oversight of a number of published studies. This review contains some material not published elsewhere although several ideas and concepts were developed from a broad base of scientific literature up to 2010.
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