Crop Biotech Update

International Research Team Discovers Gene that Resists Virus Causing Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease

March 22, 2017

An international research team has discovered the gene that fights off sugarcane mosaic virus. This virus, together with maize chlorotic mottle virus, causes maize lethal necrosis disease, a condition that has led to total yield losses in East African fields. Sugarcane mosaic virus and closely related potyviruses threaten corn crops in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas, and also infects sugarcane, sorghum and other crops.

The study identified a gene called Scmv1, that when expressed at a high enough rate, can help corn plants fight off the virus. The virus hijacks a protein in the plant that is related to photosynthesis and spreads from there. Scmv1 binds with the same photosynthesis protein and competes with the virus. If the gene is expressed at a high rate, it can stop the disease from spreading.

"We hope our research can be used in countries where these viruses are present and contribute to getting these viruses under control. Ultimately, we want to help solve problems for farmers," said Thomas Lubberstedt, a professor of agronomy at Iowa State University, one of the collaborators of the research study.

For more, read the article at the Iowa State University News Service.