CRISPR-Cas9 System Used to Develop First-Ever Plantain Resistant to Banana Streak Virus
Using the gene editing tool CRISPR, a team of scientists at the
International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has announced that
they have developed banana and plantain varieties that are resistant to
banana streak virus (BSV). BSV is hampering the crop's production in Africa
and threatening the food and income of millions of farmers.
BSV works by integrating its DNA into the B genome of banana and plantain
having one or more of the genome. When plants are stressed, the viral DNA
produces functional viral particles, ultimately causing disease symptoms.
Thus, major BSV epidemics are not due to natural transmission, but rather
due to activation of integrated virus under stress conditions. Due to this
reason, breeders avoid using banana and plantain that contain the B genome,
such as the Musa balbisiana, for crop improvement, despite their good
The research team, led by IITA principal scientist Leena Tripathi, used the
CRISPR-Cas9 system to inactivate viral DNA from the B genome of Gonja
Manjaya, a variety of false horn plantain of the Musa genus commonly grown
in East and Central Africa. The researchers found that, when exposed to
drought stress, 75% of the edited plants did not show any symptoms of BSV
compared to non-edited plants, confirming deactivation of the viral DNA.