Crop Biotech Update

Fern Protein Expression in Cotton Prevents Whitefly Attack

September 14, 2016

Whitefly (Bemisia tabaci) is a notorious insect pest of field crops. It also has the ability to serve as a vector of viral diseases. At present, there are no biotech crops that have traits to resist whitefly. Thus, scientists from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and other research institutions in India conducted a study to develop biotech cotton with resistance to this damaging pest. The results are published in Nature Biotechnology.

The researchers identified a protein known as Tma12 which is naturally present in edible fern, Tectaria macrodonta. Tma12 is insecticidal to whitefly at median lethal concentration (1.49 μg/ml) and interferes with whitefly's lifecycle at sublethal doses. The protein was expressed in transgenic cotton lines, which exhibited resistance to whitefly infestation in contained field trials, with no reduction in the yield. The transgenic cotton lines also showed resistance to cotton leaf curl viral disease, which is transmitted by whiteflies. Furthermore, rats fed with Tma12 did not exhibit any histological or biochemical changes.

Based on the results of the study, the protein Tma12 may be utilized to develop GM crops that resist whitefly and the viruses it transmits.

Read the research article in Nature Biotechnology.