The coffee berry borer Hypothenemus hampei Ferrari (Coleoptera: Scolytidae) was first reported infecting Costa Rican coffee plantations in the year 2000. Due to the impact that this plague has in the economy of the country, we were interested in seeking new alternatives for the biological control of H. hampei, based on the entomopathogenic bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis. Atotal of 202 B. thuringiensis isolates obtained from Costa Rican coffee plantations infested with H. hampei were analyzed through crystal morphology of the crystal inclusions and SDS-PAGE of d-endotoxins, while 105 strains were further evaluated by PCR for the presence cry, cyt and vip genes. Most of the Bt strains showed diverse crystal morphologies: pleomorphic (35%), oval (37%), bipyramidal (3%), bipyramidal and oval (12%), bipyramidal, oval and pleomorphic (10%) and bipyramidal, oval and cubic (3%). The SDS-PAGE analyses of the crystal preparations showed five strains with d-endotoxin from 20 to 40 kDa, six from 40 to 50 kDa, seven from 50 to 60 kDa, 19 from 60 to 70 kDa, 29 from 70 to 100 kDa and 39 from 100-145 kDa. PCR analyses demonstrated that the collection showed diverse cry genes profiles having several genes per strain: 78 strains contained the vip3 gene, 82 the cry2 gene, 45 the cry1 and 29 strains harbored cry3-cry7 genes. Atotal of 13 strains did not amplified with any of the cry primers used: cry1, cry2, cry3-7, cry5, cry11, cry12 and cry14. Forty-three different genetic profiles were found, mainly due to the combination of cry1A genes with other cry and vip genes. The genetic characterization of the collection provides opportunities for the selection of strains to be tested in bioassays against H. hampei and other insect pests of agricultural importance.
Keywords: bacillus thuringiensis, crystals, cry genes, d-endotoxins, hypothenemus hampei, coffee