12-24 – Broad Spectrum Resistance to Multiple Viruses in Plants

Current methods to provide resistance to RNA viruses infecting wheat focus on targeting a plant gene to provide selective resistance against one specific virus. This method fails to provide the necessary long term efficacy needed to control viral diseases that result in significant yield losses, often times as high as 20-25%. Researchers at Kansas State University and USDA-ARS have developed a new method for targeting a virus gene to provide broad spectrum resistance to multiple viruses in wheat, and potentially other crops infected by RNA viruses. This method is built on the premise that RNA viruses use host genes to complete their life cycles; therefore, when a virus enters a cell, the protein coat is removed and host proteins are then used to translate and replicate the viral RNA. With this in mind, our researchers have modified the plant so that it can limit the expression of two critical proteins used in this process. By utilizing hairpin RNA structures derived from the two critical wheat proteins, researchers have been able to induce a plant RNA protection system inside the cell that targets the RNA of these two plant genes. By reducing the expression of the wheat proteins via utilization of the siRNA, replication of the virus is prevented and resistance is created. To date, K-State and USDA researchers have produced transgenic wheat lines for each construct that are in the 5th generation, as shown below, and research shows complete resistance to both WSMV and TriMV, with potential for other viruses. Lindsay Biggs-Gragg biggsl@ksu.edu 785-395-0901

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