Researchers from Christian-Albrecht University of Kiel in Germany used CRISPR-Cas9 to investigate the genes in oilseed rape (Brassica napus) that are involved in susceptibility to fungus Verticillium longisporum (Vl43). Their findings are reported in Plant Biotechnology Journal.
Oilseed rape is susceptible to Vl43 with no effective genetic resistance. The researchers believe that the fungus reprograms plant physiological processes by up-regulation of so-called susceptibility factors to create an interaction. Thus, they conducted transcriptome analysis to pinpoint the genes that are activated or upregulated in oilseed rape after Vl43 infection. Using Arabidopsis orthologs, they tested if one of the genes is functionally involved in the infection process, and if knocking out would lead to decreased susceptibility.
The results showed that knocking out of AtCRT1a leads to a significant reduction in the susceptibility of plants to Vl43. Then they generated BnCRT1a mutants and exposed them to Vl43 and observed overall reduced susceptibility in 3 out of 4 independent lines. Transcript analysis showed that the decrease in susceptibility may have been caused by the activation of the ethylene signaling pathway.
The findings of the study exhibit a new strategy to enhance plant disease resistance.