Caister Academic Press

CIMB Abstract

Curr. Issues Mol. Biol. (2001) 3: 27-34.

Ribozyme Genes Protecting Transgenic Melon Plants Against Potyviruses

Eric Huttner, William Tucker, Agnès Vermeulen, Frédéric Ignart, Brett Sawyer and Robert Birch

Potyviruses are the most important viral pathogens of crops worldwide. Under a contract with Gene Shears Pty Limited, we are using ribozyme genes to protect melon plants against two potyviruses: WMV2 and ZYMV. Different polyribozyme genes were designed, built and introduced into melons plants. Transgenic melon plants containing a resistance gene were obtained and their progeny was challenged by the appropriate virus. Most of the genes tested conferred some degree of resistance to the viruses in glasshouse trials. Melon plants from one family containing one gene directed against WMV2 were also field-trialed on small plots under natural infection pressure and were found immune to WMV2. Field trial is in progress for plants containing genes against ZYMV. Some of the ribozyme genes used in the plants were also assayed in a transient expression system in tobacco cells. This enabled us to study the sequence discrimination capacity of the ribozyme in the case of one ribozyme target site. We found that a mutated target GUG (non cleavable) was less susceptible to inhibition by the ribozyme gene than the corresponding wild type target GUA (cleavable).

Work is now in progress to incorporate multiple resistance genes in melon plants, in constructs designed in compliance with the evolving European regulations concerning transgenic plants. The use of ribozyme genes to protect plants against viruses provides an alternative to the technologies currently used for protecting crops against viruses, based on the concept of Pathogen Derived Resistance. In the light of concerns expressed by some plant virologists (13) about the use of viral genes in transgenic plants, it may be that ribozyme genes will find many uses in this area of agricultural biotechnology.

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