The journal Nature publishes a broad-spectrum disease resistance gene for new crops

On June 14, the journal Nature published the research results led by Professor Li Guotian of Huazhong Agricultural University. The team cloned a broad-spectrum disease-resistant plaque mutant gene RBL1, and created a new gene RBL1Δ12 that enhances the broad-spectrum disease resistance and stable yield of crops through gene editing, which is highly conserved in crops, can break species boundaries, is more universal than traditional disease resistance genes, and has great potential for disease resistance breeding applications.

Li Guotian’s team in the laboratory. Photo courtesy of Huazhong Agricultural University

Known as “rice cancer”, rice blast is widespread in rice regions around the world and is a devastating fungal disease that causes tens of millions of tons of yield losses worldwide each year. Cultivating and planting broad-spectrum disease-resistant varieties is the most cost-effective measure to achieve green prevention and control of rice blast, which is of great significance to ensure food security in China and the world.

In the early stage, the Huazhong Agricultural University team, together with the University of California, Davis and other research teams, screened a disease-like plaque mutant strain RBL1 that is well resistant to both rice blast and white leaf wilt in the whole genome sequencing rice mutant library, and its mutant gene RBL1 encodes a cytidine diphosphate-diacylglycerol synthetase.

The research team created a new gene, RBL1Δ12, which only showed a weak disease-like phenotype at the adult stage by editing multiple sites in the coding region of the RBL1 gene.

Field test analysis showed that rbl1Δ12 strain had stable yield and significant resistance to rice blast, and could save about 40% of yield loss when rice blast disease was serious. This gene also has a significant effect on wheat resistance to rust and striated blight, which further proves its great application potential in crop disease resistance breeding, and this research model also provides reference for the utilization of reserve resources of disease-like spot mutants. The research results are of great significance for expanding the source of disease resistance genes, promoting crop disease resistance breeding, green prevention and control of plant diseases, and ensuring national food security. (Source: Li Chen, China Science News)

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