Develop citrus resistant or tolerant to HLB using the CTV vector and transgenic approaches

Develop citrus resistant or tolerant to HLB using the CTV vector and transgenic approaches

Report Date: 10/30/2015
Project: 516
Category: Horticultural & Management
Author: William Dawson
Sponsor: Citrus Research and Development Foundation

This is a continuing project to find economical approaches to citrus production in the presence of Huanglongbing (HLB). We are developing trees to be resistant or tolerant to the disease or to effectively repel the psyllid. First, we are attempting to identify genes that when expressed in citrus will control the greening bacterium or the psyllid. Secondly, we will express those genes in citrus. We are using two approaches. For the long term, these genes are being expressed in transgenic trees. However, because transgenic trees likely will not be available soon enough, we have developed the CTV vector as an interim approach to allow the industry to survive until resistant or tolerant trees are available. A major goal is to develop approaches that will allow young trees in the presence of HLB inoculum to grow to profitability. We also are using the CTV vector to express anti-HLB genes to treat trees in the field already infected with HLB. At this time we are continuing to screen possible peptide candidates in our psyllid containment room. We are now screening about 80 different genes or sequences for activity against HLB. We are starting to test the effect of two peptides or sequences in combination. We have developed methods to be able to screen genes faster. Finally, we have found a few peptides that protect plants under the high disease pressure in our containment room with large numbers of infected psyllids. We now are examine combinations of peptides for more activity. We recently examined all of the peptides constructs for stability. The earliest constructs have been in plants for about nine years. Almost all of the constructs still retain the peptide sequences. One of the peptides in the field test remained stable for four years. All of these constructs had the peptide gene inserted between the coat protein genes, which is positioned sixth from the 3′ terminus. However, we have found that much more foreign protein can be made from genes positioned nearer the 3′ terminus. Based on that we built constructs with the peptide gene next to the 3′ terminus. These constructs produced much greater amounts of peptide and provided more tolerance to Las. Unfortunately, they are less stable. So now we are rebuilding constructs with the peptide gene inserted at an intermediate site hoping for a better compromise of amounts of production and stability. We have produced a large amount of inoculum for a large field test via Southern Gardens Citrus. We are screening a large number of transgenic plants in collaboration with Dr. Zhonglin Mou, Department of Microbiology and Cell Science in Gainesville, to test transgenic plants over-expressing plant defense genes. We are propagating a progeny set of plants of the promising candidates for a final greenhouse test.


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