Host Induced Gene Silencing Targeting Aspergillus flavus aflM Reduced Aflatoxin Contamination in Transgenic Maize Under Field Conditions.

Host Induced Gene Silencing Targeting Aspergillus flavus aflM Reduced Aflatoxin Contamination in Transgenic Maize Under Field Conditions.

Front Microbiol. 2020;11:754

Authors: Raruang Y, Omolehin O, Hu D, Wei Q, Han ZQ, Rajasekaran K, Cary JW, Wang K, Chen ZY

Abstract
Maize (Zea mays L.) is one of the major crops susceptible to Aspergillus flavus infection and subsequent contamination with aflatoxins, the most potent naturally produced carcinogenic secondary metabolites. This pathogen can pose serious health concerns and cause severe economic losses due to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations on permissible levels of aflatoxins in food and feed. Although biocontrol has yielded some successes in managing aflatoxin contamination, enhancing crop resistance is still the preferred choice of management for long-term sustainability. Hence, host induced gene silencing (HIGS) strategy was explored in this study. The A. flavus gene aflM encoding versicolorin dehydrogenase, a key enzyme involved in the aflatoxin biosynthetic pathway, was selected as a possible target for suppression through HIGS. An RNAi vector containing a portion of the aflM gene was constructed and introduced into immature B104 maize zygotic embryos through Agrobacterium transformation. PCR analysis of the genomic DNA from T0 leaf tissue confirmed the presence of the transgene in six out of the seven events. The seeds from the lines that showed reduced aflatoxin production in laboratory aflatoxin kernel screening assay (KSA) have been increased from T1 to T4 generation in the past four years. Changes in aflatoxin resistance in these transgenic kernels have been evaluated under both field and laboratory conditions. The T2 generation kernels containing the transgene from two events out of four examined had less aflatoxin (P ≤ 0.01 and P ≤ 0.08) than those without the transgene. Field-inoculated homozygous T3 and T4 transgenic kernels also revealed lower levels of aflatoxins (P ≤ 0.04) than kernels from the null (segregated non-transgenic samples) or B104 controls. A similar result was observed when the harvested T3 and T4 homozygous transgenic kernels were evaluated under KSA conditions without inoculation (P ≤ 0.003-0.05). These two events were crossed with LH195, LH197, LH210, and PHW79 elite breeding lines and the resulting crosses supported less aflatoxin (P ≤ 0.02) than the crosses made with non-transgenic lines. In addition, significantly higher levels of aflM gene-specific small RNAs were detected in the transgenic leaf and kernel tissues, indicating that the enhanced aflatoxin resistance in the homozygous transgenic kernels is likely due to suppression of aflM expression through HIGS.

PMID: 32411110 [PubMed]

Source: Industry