An Alkaline Foregut Protects Herbivores from Latex in Forage, but Increases Their Susceptibility to Bt Endotoxin

About 10% of angiosperms, an estimated 20,000 species, produce latex from ubiquitous isoprene precursors. Latex, an aqueous suspension of rubber particles and other compounds, functions as an antifeedant and herbivory deterrent. It is soluble in neutral to alkaline pH, and coagulates in acidic environments. Here, I propose that foregut-fermenting herbivores such as ruminants, kangaroos, sloths, insect larvae, and tadpoles have adapted to latex in forage with the evolution of alkaline anterior digestive chamber(s). However, they consequently become susceptible to the action of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) δ-endotoxin and related bioinsecticides which are activated in alkaline environments. By contrast, hindgut-fermenting herbivores, such as horses and rabbits, have acidic anterior digestive chambers, in which latex coagulates and may cause gut blockage, but in which Bt is not activated. The latex-adapted foregut herbivore vs. latex-maladapted hindgut herbivore hypothesis developed in this paper has implications for hindgut-fermenting livestock and zoo animals which may be provided with latex-containing forage that is detrimental to their gut health. Further, ruminants and herbivorous tadpoles with alkaline anterior chambers are at risk of damage by the supposedly “environmentally friendly” Bt bioinsecticide, which is widely disseminated or engineered into crops which may enter animal feed streams.
This article was originally published in Life. The version of record is available at: © 2023 by the author. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.
latex, ruminants, alkaline gut pH, foregut, hindgut, monogastric, polygastric, herbivory, deterrent, antifeedant, evolution, digestive system, adaptation, B. thuringiensis, Bt toxin, bioinsecticide
Rajan, Vidya. 2023. "An Alkaline Foregut Protects Herbivores from Latex in Forage, but Increases Their Susceptibility to Bt Endotoxin" Life 13, no. 11: 2195.