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Fusion proteins comprising a Fusarium-specific antibody linked to antifungal peptides protect plants against a fungal pathogen


In planta expression of recombinant antibodies recognizing pathogen-specific antigens has been proposed as a strategy for crop protection. We report the expression of fusion proteins comprising a Fusarium-specific recombinant antibody linked to one of three antifungal peptides (AFPs) as a method for protecting plants against fungal diseases. A chicken-derived single-chain antibody specific to antigens displayed on the Fusarium cell surface was isolated from a pooled immunocompetent phage display library. This recombinant antibody inhibited fungal growth in vitro when fused to any of the three AFPs. Expression of the fusion proteins in transgenic Arabidopsis thaliana plants conferred high levels of protection against Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. matthiolae, whereas plants expressing either the fungus-specific antibody or AFPs alone exhibited only moderate resistance. Our results demonstrate that antibody fusion proteins may be used as effective and versatile tools for the protection of crop plants against fungal infection.

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Figure 1: Immunoblot of CWP from F. graminearum and F. oxysporum f.sp. matthiolae detected with the chicken-derived scFv antibody CWP2.
Figure 2: Structure of AFP-scFv fusion constructs.
Figure 3: Inhibitory effects of AFPs, scFv and AFP-scFv fusion proteins on the growth of Fusarium in vitro.
Figure 4: Immunofluorescence labeling of germinated tubes of F. graminearum with scFv antibodies and AFP-scFv fusions.
Figure 5: Expression levels of CWP2, AFPs and AFP-scFv fusions in transgenic A. thaliana plants.
Figure 6: Phenotype of transgenic A. thaliana plants infected with F. oxysporum (21 d.p.i) and with S. sclerotiorum (2 d.p.i.).

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We thank N. Emans for fluorescence microscopy, S. Hellwig for fermentation of F. graminearum and S. Dorfmueller for valuable discussions. We also thank R. Twyman, P. Christou and N. Emans for critical reading of the manuscript. This project was supported by a state grant of Nordrhein-Westfalen to R.F.

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Correspondence to Yu-Cai Liao.

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Peschen, D., Li, HP., Fischer, R. et al. Fusion proteins comprising a Fusarium-specific antibody linked to antifungal peptides protect plants against a fungal pathogen. Nat Biotechnol 22, 732–738 (2004).

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