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Fungal pathogen protection in potato by expression of a plant defensin peptide


Defensins are small cysteine-rich peptides with antimicrobial activity. We demonstrate that the alfalfa antifungal peptide (alfAFP) defensin isolated from seeds of Medicago sativa displays strong activity against the agronomically important fungal pathogen Verticillium dahliae. Expression of the alfAFP peptide in transgenic potato plants provides robust resistance in the greenhouse. Importantly, this resistance is maintained under field conditions. There have been no previous demonstrations of a single transgene imparting a disease resistance phenotype that is at least equivalent to those achieved through current practices using fumigants.

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Figure 1: alfAFP inhibits fungal growth in vitro.
Figure 2: Expression and localization of alfAFP in transgenic potato.
Figure 3: Greenhouse evaluation of alfAFP transgenic potato for resistance against V. dahliae.
Figure 4: Field evaluation of alfAFP transgenic potato for resistance against V. dahliae.
Figure 5: Evaluation of three alfAFP lines in field trials.
Figure 6: Phenotype of V. dahliae-infected transgenic and control potato plants.


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The authors wish to thank Doug Rouse (University of Wisconsin), Mary Powelson (Oregon State University), Jiamin Zeng, Kairong Tiang, Kim Rayford, Judy Heinz, Jerry Anderson, Karen Fitzsimmons, Bonnie Hsiang, Glenda DeBrecht, Tom Salaiz, Jim Zalewski, Stephanie Prinsen, and Marjorie A. Manning for their participation in various aspects of this work.

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Correspondence to Jihong Liang.

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Gao, AG., Hakimi, S., Mittanck, C. et al. Fungal pathogen protection in potato by expression of a plant defensin peptide. Nat Biotechnol 18, 1307–1310 (2000).

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