Researchers from the Spanish Research Council (CSIC) at the Centre for
Research in Agricultural Genomics (CRAG) and the Institute for Plant
Molecular and Cellular Biology (IBMCP), in collaboration with the IATA, have
developed a biotechnological tool to produce, in a very efficient manner,
antifungal proteins in plants. The research, published in the Plant
Biotechnology Journal could impact the agri-food and pharmaceutical sectors.
Maria Coca, a researcher at CRAG and one of the senior authors of the study,
explains that only a few classes of antifungal agents are available today.
She adds that these are not fully effective due to the development of
resistance, host toxicity, and undesirable side effects. Many of these
compounds cannot be used because they do not comply with the regulations.
Thus, there is an urgent need to develop novel antifungals which can be
applied in diverse fields, including crop and postharvest protection,
preservation in cosmetics, materials and food, and animal and human health.
Through genetic engineering, CSIC researcher Josť Antonio Daros and his team
modified the tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) so that, instead of producing its
own pathogenic proteins, it produced other proteins of interest. Coca's team
then implemented this tool to produce antifungal proteins in leaves of the
Nicotiana benthamiana plant and discovered that these leaves produced large
quantities of these new antifungals. The researchers also showed that
extracts from the N. benthamiana plants are active against pathogenic fungi
and could protect tomato plants from the fungus Botrytis cinerea, better
known as gray mold.