Enhanced quantitative resistance against fungal disease by combinatorial expression of different barley antifungal proteins in transgenic tobacco

G Jach, B Görnhardt, J Mundy, J Logemann, E Pinsdorf, R Leah, J Schell, C Maas
Plant Journal 1995, 8 (1): 97-109
cDNAs encoding three proteins from barley (Hordeum vulgare), a class-II chitinase (CHI), a class-II beta-1,3-glucanase (GLU) and a Type-I ribosome-inactivating protein (RIP) were expressed in tobacco plants under the control of the CaMV 35S-promoter. High-level expression of the transferred genes was detected in the transgenic plants by Northern and Western blot analysis. The leader peptides in CHI and GLU led to accumulation of these proteins in the intercellular space of tobacco leaves. RIP, which is naturally deposited in the cytosol of barley endosperm cells, was expressed either in its original cytosolic form or fused to a plant secretion peptide (spRIP). Fungal infection assays revealed that expression of the individual genes in each case resulted in an increased protection against the soilborne fungal pathogen Rhizoctonia solani, which infects a range of plant species including tobacco. To create a situation similar to 'multi-gene' tolerance, which traditional breeding experience has shown to provide crops with a longer-lasting protection, several of these antifungal genes were combined and protection against fungal attack resulting from their co-expression in planta was evaluated. Transgenic tobacco lines were generated with tandemly arranged genes coding for RIP and CHI as well as GLU and CHI. The performance of tobacco plants co-expressing the barley transgenes GLU/CHI or CHI/RIP in a Rhizoctonia solani infection assay revealed significantly enhanced protection against fungal attack when compared with the protection levels obtained with corresponding isogenic lines expressing a single barley transgene to a similar level. The data indicate synergistic protective interaction of the co-expressed antifungal proteins in vivo.

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