Biotech Updates

Disease-Resistant Crops through PRR Gene Transfer

March 26, 2010

Plants have inherent ways to resist microbial attacks that prevent them from developing diseases. However, with the ever mutating microbial genome, the pathogen would sometime overcome the disease fighting mechanism of the plant. Scientists at the Sainsbury Laboratory in the UK in collaboration with an international team have studied how to improve resistance by enhancing capability of the plants' own innate immune system, with focus on the pattern recognition receptor (PRR).

PRRs are present in some plants that aid in the recognition of essential molecules that are key to keeping a pathogen alive. Its presence in the plant will increase its chance of fighting the disease. This was confirmed when genetically modified Nicotiana benthamiana and Solanum lycopersicon containing the Brassica-specific PRR were found to be resistant to a number of different bacteria including the hazardous ones. "The strength of this resistance is because it has come from a different plant family, which the pathogen has not had any chance to adapt to, " explained Dr. Cyril Zipfel of The Sainsbury Laboratory. "We can now transfer this resistance across plant species boundaries in a way traditional breeding cannot."

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