Crop Biotech Update

CRISPR-Cas9 System Used to Develop First-Ever Plantain Resistant to Banana Streak Virus

February 6, 2019
Using the gene editing tool CRISPR, a team of scientists at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has announced that they have developed banana and plantain varieties that are resistant to banana streak virus (BSV). BSV is hampering the crop's production in Africa and threatening the food and income of millions of farmers.

BSV works by integrating its DNA into the B genome of banana and plantain having one or more of the genome. When plants are stressed, the viral DNA produces functional viral particles, ultimately causing disease symptoms. Thus, major BSV epidemics are not due to natural transmission, but rather due to activation of integrated virus under stress conditions. Due to this reason, breeders avoid using banana and plantain that contain the B genome, such as the Musa balbisiana, for crop improvement, despite their good attributes.

The research team, led by IITA principal scientist Leena Tripathi, used the CRISPR-Cas9 system to inactivate viral DNA from the B genome of Gonja Manjaya, a variety of false horn plantain of the Musa genus commonly grown in East and Central Africa. The researchers found that, when exposed to drought stress, 75% of the edited plants did not show any symptoms of BSV compared to non-edited plants, confirming deactivation of the viral DNA.

For more details, read the IITA News.