Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Plant protection: researchers develop new modular vaccination kit

21.08.2019

Simple, fast and flexible: It could become significantly easier to vaccinate plants against viruses in future. Scientists at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), the Leibniz Institute of Plant Biochemistry (IPB) and the National Research Council in Italy (CNR) have developed a new method for this purpose. It enables the rapid identification and production of precisely tailored substances that combat different pathogens. The researchers discuss their work in the journal "Nucleic Acids Research".

The new method is based on a molecular defence program of plants that is triggered, for example, by viral infections. During a virus attack, the plant’s cells serve as a host to multiply the virus, which results in the creation of viral ribonucleic acid molecules (RNAs). Plants can detect and cut up these molecules using special enzyme scissors.


Using the novel approach by MLU's scientists, plants can be easily vaccinated.

Uni Halle / Markus Scholz

This process produces "small interfering RNAs" (siRNAs) which spread throughout the plant and may initiate a second stage of defence for the plant. Here, the siRNA molecules attach themselves to so-called Argonaute protein complexes and lead these to the virus RNAs, which then, in the best-case scenario can be dismantled and broken down into harmless compounds.

"By implementing this two-stage process, the plant is trying to protect itself from the virus both at the site of the infection and throughout its structure", says Professor Sven-Erik Behrens from MLU’s Institute of Biochemistry and Biotechnology.

The process is not particularly efficient, however, as the biochemist explains: "When a viral infection occurs, lots of different siRNA molecules are produced, but very few of them have a protective effect. The majority simply saturate the Argonaute complexes, rendering them inactive."

Behrens’ team has discovered a novel way to identify the few effective antiviral siRNA molecules for different viruses and harness them as plant vaccines. The scientists have developed a screening process based on plant cell extracts, which is being used instead of lengthy, complex breeding efforts.

To qualify as potential vaccines, the siRNA molecules must have two key properties: On the one hand, they have to bind strongly to the Argonaute complexes. On the other hand, they have to lead these proteins to sites of the viral RNAs that are accessible for Argonaute-mediated degradation.

The team of scientists have already been able to prove the effectiveness of their new method in the laboratory. To achieve this, two groups of the tobacco plant N. benthamiana were infected with a model virus that attacks tomatoes and tobacco. Before being infected, one group was vaccinated with highly efficient siRNA molecules that the researchers had identified using the new method.

The other group didn’t receive any treatment. The effects were striking: After six weeks, 90 per cent of the vaccinated plants did not show any signs of infection, but all the untreated plants had been killed by the virus.

The MLU research team’s method follows the modular principle. "If the pathogen changes or the plant needs to be protected against another virus, the established screening process enables suitable RNA molecules to fight the respective pathogen to be identified very quickly. This means we can be very flexible when it comes to combatting new pests", Behrens concludes. A patent application has been filed for the method.

The researchers hope to continue exploring and improving their method in future. It is, for example, still unclear how long a vaccination will last in different species and whether drug depots can be created on plants. Further studies will clarify how vaccines can be produced in larger quantities and how they can be applied to or absorbed by plants.

According to Behrens, a spray that can be applied in greenhouses is conceivable: "Tomato growers have to contend with whiteflies, for example, and these can transfer viruses from one plant to another very quickly." Until now, pesticides have been used to kill off the insects. The new MLU development could prove to be an alternative that’s much gentler both to the insects and to the environment.

The research was funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) as part of the Collaborative Research Centre 648 and by the Research Priority Programme of the State of Saxony-Anhalt.

Originalpublikation:

Gago-Zachert S. et al. Highly efficacious antiviral protection of plants by small interfering RNAs identified in vitro. Nucleic Acids Research (2019). doi: 10.1093/nar/gkz678

Link to the study: https://academic.oup.com/nar/article-lookup/doi/10.1093/nar/gkz678

Tom Leonhardt | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Further information:
http://www.uni-halle.de

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Too much of a good thing: overactive immune cells trigger inflammation
16.09.2019 | Universität Basel

nachricht The sleep neuron in threadworms is also a stop neuron
16.09.2019 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Tomorrow´s coolants of choice

Scientists assess the potential of magnetic-cooling materials

Later during this century, around 2060, a paradigm shift in global energy consumption is expected: we will spend more energy for cooling than for heating....

Im Focus: The working of a molecular string phone

Researchers from the Department of Atomically Resolved Dynamics of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg, the University of Potsdam (both in Germany) and the University of Toronto (Canada) have pieced together a detailed time-lapse movie revealing all the major steps during the catalytic cycle of an enzyme. Surprisingly, the communication between the protein units is accomplished via a water-network akin to a string telephone. This communication is aligned with a ‘breathing’ motion, that is the expansion and contraction of the protein.

This time-lapse sequence of structures reveals dynamic motions as a fundamental element in the molecular foundations of biology.

Im Focus: Milestones on the Way to the Nuclear Clock

Two research teams have succeeded simultaneously in measuring the long-sought Thorium nuclear transition, which enables extremely precise nuclear clocks. TU Wien (Vienna) is part of both teams.

If you want to build the most accurate clock in the world, you need something that "ticks" very fast and extremely precise. In an atomic clock, electrons are...

Im Focus: Graphene sets the stage for the next generation of THz astronomy detectors

Researchers from Chalmers University of Technology have demonstrated a detector made from graphene that could revolutionize the sensors used in next-generation space telescopes. The findings were recently published in the scientific journal Nature Astronomy.

Beyond superconductors, there are few materials that can fulfill the requirements needed for making ultra-sensitive and fast terahertz (THz) detectors for...

Im Focus: Physicists from Stuttgart prove the existence of a supersolid state of matte

A supersolid is a state of matter that can be described in simplified terms as being solid and liquid at the same time. In recent years, extensive efforts have been devoted to the detection of this exotic quantum matter. A research team led by Tilman Pfau and Tim Langen at the 5th Institute of Physics of the University of Stuttgart has succeeded in proving experimentally that the long-sought supersolid state of matter exists. The researchers report their results in Nature magazine.

In our everyday lives, we are familiar with matter existing in three different states: solid, liquid, or gas. However, if matter is cooled down to extremely...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Society 5.0: putting humans at the heart of digitalisation

10.09.2019 | Event News

Interspeech 2019 conference: Alexa and Siri in Graz

04.09.2019 | Event News

AI for Laser Technology Conference: optimizing the use of lasers with artificial intelligence

29.08.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Too much of a good thing: overactive immune cells trigger inflammation

16.09.2019 | Life Sciences

Scientists create a nanomaterial that is both twisted and untwisted at the same time

16.09.2019 | Materials Sciences

Researchers have identified areas of the retina that change in mild Alzheimer's disease

16.09.2019 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>