Biotech Updates

Researchers Find Genes Conferring Enhanced Defense against Cassava Bacterial Blight

March 21, 2018

Cassava (Manihot esculenta) is an important food crop in the tropics. However, its production is greatly affected by the cassava bacterial blight caused by Xanthomonas axonopodis pv. manihotis (Xam). Moreover, information on defense-related genes in cassava is very limited.

Calcium ions play roles in stress signaling pathways. Calcineurin B-like proteins (CBLs) and CBL-interacting protein kinases (CIPKs) are crucial components of these calcium signals. Researchers led by Yu Yan from Hainan University, studied the expression of CIPKs in cassava (MeCIPKs) in response to Xam infection.

The team selected seven candidate MeCIPKs for further investigation. Through transient expression in tobacco leaves, the team found that six MeCIPKs conferred improved defense response in cassava by regulating several defense-related genes. The most notable of these genes was MeCIPK23, which interacted with MeCBL1 and MeCBL9 to confer improved defense response.

Overexpression of these three genes conferred improved defense response. On the contrary, gene silencing of any of the three or a combination of these genes resulted in disease sensitivity in cassava.

This study suggests that MeCIPK23, as well as MeCBL1 and MeCBL9, can confer enhanced defense response against Xam.

For more information, read the article in Plant Cell Reports.