The super-kdr insecticide resistance trait of the house fly confers resistance to pyrethroids and DDT by reducing the sensitivity of the fly nervous system. The super-kdr genetic locus is tightly linked to the Vssc1 gene, which encodes a voltage-sensitive sodium channel alpha subunit that is the principal site of pyrethroid action. DNA sequence analysis of Vssc1 alleles from several independent super-kdr fly strains identified two amino acid substitutions associated with the super-kdr trait: replacement of leucine at position 1014 with phenylalanine (L1014F), which has been shown to cause the kdr resistance trait in this species, and replacement of methionine at position 918 with threonine (M918T). We examined the functional significance of these mutations by expressing house fly sodium channels containing them in Xenopus laevis oocytes and by characterizing the biophysical properties and pyrethroid sensitivities of the expressed channels using two-electrode voltage clamp. House fly sodium channels that were specifically modified by site-directed mutagenesis to contain the M918T/L1014F double mutation gave reduced levels of sodium current expression in oocytes but otherwise exhibited functional properties similar to those of wildtype channels and channels containing the L1014F substitution. However, M918T/L1014F channels were completely insensitive to high concentrations of the pyrethroids cismethrin and cypermethrin. House fly sodium channels specifically modified to contain the M918T single mutation, which is not known to exist in nature except in association with the L1014F mutation, gave very small sodium currents in oocytes. Assays of these currents in the presence of high concentrations of cismethrin suggest that this mutation alone is sufficient to abolish the pyrethroid sensitivity of house fly sodium channels. These results define the functional significance of the Vssc1 mutations associated with the super-kdr trait of the house fly and are consistent with the hypothesis that the super-kdr trait arose by selection of a second-site mutation (M918T) that confers to flies possessing it even greater resistance than the kdr allele containing the L1014F mutation.
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