Crop Biotech Update

Collaboration Explores Nature-Friendly Plant Vaccines Against Pests and Diseases

April 11, 2018

A new collaborative project between the University of Helsinki and the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) aims to shed light on the efficacy of environmentally friendly RNA-based vaccines that protect plants from diseases and pests. Dr. Minna Poranen of the Molecular and Integrative Biosciences Research Programme at the University of Helsinki's Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences leads a research group that is developing a plant vaccine against pathogens using double-stranded RNA molecules that can be sprayed directly on the leaves.

The vaccine triggers RNA interference, an innate plant defense mechanism against pathogens. The vaccine can be targeted to the chosen pathogen by using RNA molecules which share sequence identity with the pest's genes and prevents their expression. The double-stranded RNA molecules do not affect the expression of genes in the protected plant, but only target the plant disease or pest.

Poranen's group, together with researchers at the CNRS, has developed a new production method for double-stranded RNA molecules. The method uses the RNA amplification system of a bacteriophage and the RNA production takes place in bacterial cells. This new method will enable the effective production of RNA-based vaccines and promote the development and adoption of RNA-based plant protection methods.

For more, read the press release from the University of Helsinki.