Efficient and environmentally friendly without residue! Jiangnan University develops chiral nanopesticides that are resistant to plant viruses

Nature Catalysis August cover

On August 19, 2022, the research team of Professor Xu Chuanlai of Jiangnan University, in collaboration with the Tobacco Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences and the University of Michigan, published a cover article in the journal Nature Catalysis, entitled “Site-Selective Proteolytic Cleavage of Plant Viruses by Photoactive Chiral Nanoparticles”. The study uses minerals required for plant growth as raw materials to develop chiral nanoparticles with unique morphology, and develops new nanopesticides with no residue and no resistance.

Professor Xu Chuanlai and Professor Kuang Hua of Jiangnan University, Yang Jinguang, Researcher of tobacco research institute of Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, and Professor Nicholas A. Kotov of the University of Michigan are co-corresponding authors. Gao Rui, a postdoctoral fellow at the School of Food Science of Jiangnan University, Professor Xu Liguang, a young teacher, Professor Sun Maozhong, and Xu Manlin, an associate researcher at the Shandong Peanut Research Institute, are the co-first authors of the paper.

The occurrence of pests and diseases in crops is a natural phenomenon that cannot be avoided. Pesticides are the necessary means of production for modern agricultural production, and are an important means and tool to protect crops and reduce yield losses. China feeds 22% of the world’s population with less than 7% of the world’s arable land, of which pesticides play a huge role in defending against major biological disasters and ensuring China’s food security. The long-term inefficient use of traditional pesticides, the utilization rate is less than 40%, and a large number of pesticides are discharged into the environment or remain in food, which seriously restricts the sustainable development of agriculture, which not only poses a serious threat to biological and human health, but also leads to the destruction of the structure and function of the ecosystem.

Professor Xu Chuanlai’s team at Jiangnan University has taken a unique approach to develop chiral nanoparticles with unique morphology based on minerals needed for plant growth processes, and developed new nanopesticides with no residue and no resistance.

Plant viruses cause economic losses of at least $20 billion worldwide each year. Tobacco mosaic virus is the first plant virus discovered by humans, the most representative of plant viruses, has been found to infect more than 500 species of plants. Its shell protein helix self-assembles into a rod-like appearance, and the pore size formed by the helix is about 4 nm, in which genomic single-stranded RNA is located. Based on the structural characteristics of tobacco mosaic virus, the team prepared a 3nm copper sulfide chiral nanoparticle, which can enter plant cells through plant foliar stomata, target plant viruses, and kill plant viruses by light shear under sunlight.

Professor Xu Chuanlai’s team cooperated with Yang Jinguang of the Tobacco Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences and Xu Manlin, associate researcher of the Shandong Peanut Research Institute, to carry out real virus infection and transmission blocking experiments of tobacco plants, and confirmed that good plant protection effects can be obtained under an average spray of 5 ml per plant (chiral pesticide concentration of 5 μM). A single spray can remove 95% of the virus in 3 days, inhibit the infection and spread of tobacco mosaic virus, and its efficiency is significantly higher than that of all current plant-resistant chemical pesticides. After monitoring copper, sulfur and other elements in soil and plants, it does not produce residues and soil acid-base balance, which is an efficient, safe, resource-saving and environment-friendly agricultural input, which will inject a strong driving force into agricultural transformation and upgrading.

The research results reveal the photo-shear chemical mechanism of this novel pesticide: the size and morphology of chiral nano-pesticides match the central pore scale of virus capsid protein formation, and are firmly established inside the pores by interacting with the polypeptide fragments in the capsid pores through supramolecular interaction networks. The specific affinity of the nanoparticles with the specific protein sites in the wells makes the amide bonds between the capsid protein monomer 101st asparagine and the 102nd proline hydrolysis and break, which realizes the effective killing of the virus.

Figure 1: Mechanisms by which new chiral pesticides kill tobacco mosaic virus

This work was supported by Professor Andre F. de Moura of the Federal University of San Carlos, Brazil, Professor Felippe M. Colombari of the Brazilian National Laboratory for Nanotechnology, Professor Petr Král of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Professor Nicholas A. Kotov of the University of Michigan in theoretical dynamics simulation and computation. The tobacco antiviral research was completed by a team of researchers Yang Jinguang of the Tobacco Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences and Xu Manlin, associate researcher of the Shandong Peanut Research Institute.

The research has been funded by the National Key R&D Program (2021YFA1200300) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (32071400, 21925402, 21977038) and other projects. (Source: Science Network)

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