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Rice Team Makes Big Progress in Research and Application of the Disease-resistant Mechanism

On May 17, 2017, Nature published an article “uORF-mediated translation allows engineered plant disease resistance without fitness costs”, reporting the achievement in research and application of the plant disease-resistant mechanism that cooperated by Prof. Wang Shiping’s rice research group from the State Key Lab in HZAU and Prof. Dong Xinnian’s lab from Duke University, America. The achievement has great application value in crop production.

Disease is one of the most important factors affecting the safety of food production. The breeders often pyramid different types of resistance genes (R-gene) by hybridization to improve the crop’s resistance against various diseases. However, mechanically accumulating different types of R-genes in one crop has caused negative effects. On one hand, the crop’s agronomic traits, especially its yield was affected. One the other hand, it will cause mutation and deprive the R-gene of its ability.

The crop is just like a city and the R-genes are the guards of the city defending foreign invasion. In peaceful age, the city’s defense system is ready in full battle array and always keeps its eyes open. So, limited resources are bound to affect the construction and development of the other parts in the city. However, the negative effects on the city’s all-round development could be minimized if there was timely alert when foreign invasion came, as we can destroy the enemy in its embryonic stage. Therefore, it is of great importance to balance the relationship between normal defense and comprehensive harmonious development.

Before this, the labs in America, France, China, India and Japan have independently found that core disease resistance gene NPR1 can significantly improve crop’s resistance to different diseases, but its negative effect on crop’s production limited its extensive use. To solve this, the rice team, Prof. Wang Shiping’s research group cooperated with Prof. Dong Xinnian’s lab and took double-blind test and short upstream open reading frames (oORF) to precisely control the expression of disease resistance protein NPR1. The expression of NPR1 protein is at extremely low level when there is no pathogenic bacteria invade. Once pathogenic bacteria invade, NPR1 protein can express quickly and prevent the invasion of bacteria in a short time. Further study in rice shows that the precision control of NPR1 expression has no negative effect on rice’s agronomic traits, on the contrary, it has a good resistance to rice blast, Xanthomonas oryzae and Xanthomonas oryza pv. Oryzicola in rice production.

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(By Zhang Li)