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Crop Biotech Update

Host-Induced Gene Silencing Reduced Aflatoxin in Maize

July 1, 2015

Infestation of crops by aflatoxin-producing fungi results in economic losses as well as negative health effects. Currently, control strategies against aflatoxin accumulation are not effective for small farms in Africa causing widespread aflatoxin exposure. A strategy called host-induced gene silencing holds great potential for developing aflatoxin-resistant plant germplasm.

The team led by Amos Emitati Alakonya, a researcher from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Kenya, transformed maize with a hairpin construct targeting the aflatoxin biosynthesis transcription factor aflR. The transgenics were then challenged with an Aspergillus flavus strain.

Results reveal that aflR was downregulated in A. flavus-colonizing the transgenic maize. Furthermore, maize kernels from transgenic plants accumulated significantly lower levels of aflatoxins than wild type plants. However, transgenic maize exhibited stunting and reduced kernel placement. Results indicate that host-induced gene silencing has potential in developing aflatoxin-resistant germplasm.

For more information on the study, read the full article on Plant Cell Reports.