Biologists discover technology that could reduce the spread of rice virus

February 11th, 2009 - 4:22 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Feb 11 (ANI): Biologists have discovered a technology that reduces infection by the virus that causes Rice Tungro Disease, a serious limiting factor for rice production in Asia.

The finding was made by Roger N. Beachy, a biologist at Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL) and his colleague Shunhong Dai at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis.

They demonstrated that transgenic rice plants that overexpress either of two rice proteins are tolerant to infection caused by the rice tungro bacilliform virus (RTVB), which is largely responsible for the symptoms associated with Rice Tungro disease.

The two proteins, RF2a and RF2b, were discovered in Beachys lab several years ago and are transcription factors known to be important for plant development.

The new data suggest that they may be involved in regulating defense mechanisms that protect against virus infection in rice.

The discovery may open new avenues in the search for disease resistance genes and pathways in plants and other organisms.

Plant viral diseases cause serious economic losses in agriculture, second only to those caused by fungal diseases.

Rice Tungro disease is prevalent primarily in south and southeast Asia and accounts for nearly 1.5 billion dollars annual loss in rice production worldwide.

Preventing the occurrence and spread of this virus could result in increased yields ranging from five to 10 percent annually in affected areas.

Rice Tungro disease is complex and requires interactions between two different viruses, an insect vector and the host. It has taken a great deal of research effort through the years to gain sufficient information and knowledge about the virus and the host to come to the point of developing a type of resistance to the disease, said Beachy.

Hopefully, the results of these studies will lead to improved yields of rice in areas of the world most affected by the disease, he added.

This breakthrough provides a clearer understanding of how these two specific transcription factors turn on specific genes in rice plants as well as which proteins help the virus complete the cycle of infection.

Understanding the development of disease symptoms is critical for engineering plants that can resist the biological effects of viral pathogen infection. (ANI)

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