Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • Comment
  • Published:

Engineering good viruses to improve crop performance

Viruses can be engineered to deliver nucleic acids, peptides and proteins for plant trait reprogramming. Building on market approvals and sales of recombinant virus-based biopharmaceuticals for veterinary and human medicine, similar innovations may be applied to agriculture for transient or heritable biodesign of crops with improved performance and sustainable production.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Fig. 1: Engineering viruses for crop biodesign and agriculture.


  1. Walsh, G. & Walsh, E. Biopharmaceutical benchmarks 2022. Nat. Biotechnol. 40, 1722–1760 (2022).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Aida, V. et al. Novel vaccine technologies in veterinary medicine: a herald to human medicine vaccines. Front. Vet. Sci. 8, 654289 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Pasin, F. Oligonucleotide abundance biases aid design of a type IIS synthetic genomics framework with plant virome capacity. Biotechnol. J. 16, e2000354 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Pasin, F., Menzel, W. & Daròs, J.-A. Harnessed viruses in the age of metagenomics and synthetic biology: an update on infectious clone assembly and biotechnologies of plant viruses. Plant Biotechnol. J. 17, 1010–1026 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Charudattan, R. Use of plant viruses as bioherbicides: the first virus-based bioherbicide and future opportunities. Pest Manag. Sci. 80, 103–114 (2024).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Kwon, C.-T. et al. Rapid customization of Solanaceae fruit crops for urban agriculture. Nat. Biotechnol. 38, 182–188 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Torti, S. et al. Transient reprogramming of crop plants for agronomic performance. Nat. Plants 7, 159–171 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Li, T. et al. Highly efficient heritable genome editing in wheat using an RNA virus and bypassing tissue culture. Mol. Plant 14, 1787–1798 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Uranga, M. et al. RNA virus-mediated gene editing for tomato trait breeding. Hortic. Res. 11, uhad279 (2024).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Liu, Q., Zhao, C., Sun, K., Deng, Y. & Li, Z. Engineered biocontainable RNA virus vectors for non-transgenic genome editing across crop species and genotypes. Mol. Plant 16, 616–631 (2023).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Shorinola, O. et al. Integrative and inclusive genomics to promote the use of underutilised crops. Nat. Commun. 15, 320 (2024).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Yu, Q. et al. RNA demethylation increases the yield and biomass of rice and potato plants in field trials. Nat. Biotechnol. 39, 1581–1588 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


F.P. is supported by a ‘Juan de la Cierva Incorporación’ contract (IJC2019-039970-I) from Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (Spain), and M.U. by the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (HORIZON-MSCA-2022-PF-01-101110621) from the European Commission. F.P. gratefully acknowledges grants MiniVi (ELIXIR-IIB, Cineca, Italy) and BCV-2023-1-0021 (Red Española de Supercomputación, Spain), and resources provided by Centro de Supercomputación de Galicia (CESGA, Spain). C.-T.K. is supported by the National Research Foundation (NRF) of the Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT), Republic of Korea (2022R1C1C1002941).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



F.P. conceived the work and drafted the manuscript; M.U., R.C. and C.-T.K. collaborated on the manuscript preparation. All authors revised and approved the final version.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Fabio Pasin.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Related links

European Commission EU Pesticides Database:

Gene Therapy Clinal Trials Worldwide database:

US Environmental Protection Agency Pesticide Chemical Search:

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Pasin, F., Uranga, M., Charudattan, R. et al. Engineering good viruses to improve crop performance. Nat Rev Bioeng 2, 532–534 (2024).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


Quick links

Nature Briefing: Translational Research

Sign up for the Nature Briefing: Translational Research newsletter — top stories in biotechnology, drug discovery and pharma.

Get what matters in translational research, free to your inbox weekly. Sign up for Nature Briefing: Translational Research