Plants as efficient antifungal factories

Researchers report that they can efficiently produce antifungal proteins in plants based on a modified tobacco mosaic virus. The results of this research, which could have a major impact in the agri-food industry, have been published in the Plant Biotechnology Journal.

The fungi that cause diseases in plants, animals and human beings represent a serious threat for health, food safety and ecosystems. Every year, more people die from fungal infections than from malaria. Furthermore, fungal infections can have fatal consequences for immunosuppressed patients from diseases such as HIV or chemotherapies used to treat cancer. Fungi also typically represent a challenge for food safety because they destroy the main crops on a worldwide level and also pollute human and animal foods with mycotoxins which are harmful for their consumers.

The researcher María Coca says, “We currently only have limited numbers of antifungal agent classes, and even these are not totally effective due to the hosts developing resistances and the existence of potential undesirable secondary effects. This is why there is an urgent need to develop new antifungals that improve those that already exist and which may be applied in different fields, including crop protection, post-harvest, material and food preservation, and human and animal health.”

The researchers have used a modified virus based on the tobacco mosaic virus to produce these small antifungal proteins in Nicotiana benthamiana, a plant from the tobacco family which is often used in research. Scientists have been able to produce large amounts of antifungal proteins against the Aspergillus giganteus and Penicillium digitatum fungi. They have also verified that these antifungal proteins are totally active against target pathogens, and that a fluid which contains these proteins can protect the tomato plant from the Botrytis cinérea fungi. The study supports the idea that plants are suitable biofactories to bring these antifungal proteins to the market.

Xiaoqing Shi et al. Efficient production of antifungal proteins in plants using a new transient expression vector derived from tobacco mosaic virus, Plant Biotechnology Journal (2018). DOI: 10.1111/PBI.13038

Source: Phys. org

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