New GM Rice Shows Improved Disease Immunity
09 April 2015
US – Rice disease immunity can be improved by transferred genes from other species, according to new research from the University of California-Davis.
Rice is well equipped with an effective immune system that enables it to detect and fend off disease-causing microbes.
However, the new study showed that immunity can be further boosted when the rice plant receives a receptor protein from a completely different plant species via genetic engineering.
Lead author Benjamin Schwessinger, a postdoctoral scholar in the UC Davis Department of Plant Pathology, said: “Our results demonstrate that disease resistance in rice, and possibly related crop species, could very likely be enhanced by transferring genes responsible for specific immune receptors from dicotyledonous plants into rice, which is a monocotyledonous crop.”
Immune receptors are specialised proteins that can recognise patterns associated with disease-causing microbes, including bacteria and fungi, at the beginning of an infection.
These receptors are found on the surface of plant cells, where they play a key role in the plant’s early warning system.
Some of the receptors, however, occur only in certain groups of plant species.
Mr Schwessinger and colleagues successfully transferred the gene for an immune receptor from the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, a member of the mustard family, into rice.
The rice plants that produced the Arabidopsis immune receptor proteins were more resistant to Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae, an important bacterial disease of rice.
This demonstrated that receptors introduced to rice were able to make use of the rice plants’ native immune signalling mechanisms and cause the rice plants to launch a stronger defensive immune response against the invading bacteria.