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 'Flamenco dancing' molecule could lead to better-protecting sunscreen
18.10.2019 | University of Warwick

nachricht Synthetic cells make long-distance calls
17.10.2019 | Rice University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Solving the mystery of quantum light in thin layers

A very special kind of light is emitted by tungsten diselenide layers. The reason for this has been unclear. Now an explanation has been found at TU Wien (Vienna)

It is an exotic phenomenon that nobody was able to explain for years: when energy is supplied to a thin layer of the material tungsten diselenide, it begins to...

Im Focus: An ultrafast glimpse of the photochemistry of the atmosphere

Researchers at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich have explored the initial consequences of the interaction of light with molecules on the surface of nanoscopic aerosols.

The nanocosmos is constantly in motion. All natural processes are ultimately determined by the interplay between radiation and matter. Light strikes particles...

Im Focus: Shaping nanoparticles for improved quantum information technology

Particles that are mere nanometers in size are at the forefront of scientific research today. They come in many different shapes: rods, spheres, cubes, vesicles, S-shaped worms and even donut-like rings. What makes them worthy of scientific study is that, being so tiny, they exhibit quantum mechanical properties not possible with larger objects.

Researchers at the Center for Nanoscale Materials (CNM), a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science User Facility located at DOE's Argonne National...

Im Focus: Novel Material for Shipbuilding

A new research project at the TH Mittelhessen focusses on the development of a novel light weight design concept for leisure boats and yachts. Professor Stephan Marzi from the THM Institute of Mechanics and Materials collaborates with Krake Catamarane, which is a shipyard located in Apolda, Thuringia.

The project is set up in an international cooperation with Professor Anders Biel from Karlstad University in Sweden and the Swedish company Lamera from...

Im Focus: Controlling superconducting regions within an exotic metal

Superconductivity has fascinated scientists for many years since it offers the potential to revolutionize current technologies. Materials only become superconductors - meaning that electrons can travel in them with no resistance - at very low temperatures. These days, this unique zero resistance superconductivity is commonly found in a number of technologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Future technologies, however, will harness the total synchrony of electronic behavior in superconductors - a property called the phase. There is currently a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Symposium on Functional Materials for Electrolysis, Fuel Cells and Metal-Air Batteries

02.10.2019 | Event News

NEXUS 2020: Relationships Between Architecture and Mathematics

02.10.2019 | Event News

Optical Technologies: International Symposium „Future Optics“ in Hannover

19.09.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Energy Flow in the Nano Range

18.10.2019 | Power and Electrical Engineering

MR-compatible Ultrasound System for the Therapeutic Application of Ultrasound

18.10.2019 | Medical Engineering

Double layer of graphene helps to control spin currents

18.10.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>