Native cell-death genes as candidates for developing wilt resistance in transgenic banana plants

Siddhesh B Ghag, Upendra K Singh Shekhawat, Thumballi R Ganapathi
AoB Plants 2014, 6
In order to feed an ever-increasing world population, there is an urgent need to improve the production of staple food and fruit crops. The productivity of important food and fruit crops is constrained by numerous biotic and abiotic factors. The cultivation of banana, which is an important fruit crop, is severely threatened by Fusarium wilt disease caused by infestation by an ascomycetes fungus Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense (Foc). Since there are no established edible cultivars of banana resistant to all the pathogenic races of Foc, genetic engineering is the only option for the generation of resistant cultivars. Since Foc is a hemibiotrophic fungus, investigations into the roles played by different cell-death-related genes in the progression of Foc infection on host banana plants are important. Towards this goal, three such genes namely MusaDAD1, MusaBAG1 and MusaBI1 were identified in banana. The study of their expression pattern in banana cells in response to Foc inoculation (using Foc cultures or fungal toxins like fusaric acid and beauvericin) indicated that they were indeed differentially regulated by fungal inoculation. Among the three genes studied, MusaBAG1 showed the highest up-regulation upon Foc inoculation. Further, in order to characterize these genes in the context of Foc infection in banana, we generated transgenic banana plants constitutively overexpressing the three genes that were later subjected to Foc bioassays in a contained greenhouse. Among the three groups of transgenics tested, transformed banana plants overexpressing MusaBAG1 demonstrated the best resistance towards Foc infection. Further, these plants also showed the highest relative overexpression of the transgene (MusaBAG1) among the three groups of transformed plants generated. Our study showed for the first time that native genes like MusaBAG1 can be used to develop transgenic banana plants with efficient resistance towards pathogens like Foc.

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