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Microbe-induced gene silencing boosts crop protection against soil-borne fungal pathogens


Nature Plants (2023)


Small RNA (sRNA)-mediated trans-kingdom RNA interference (RNAi) between host and pathogen has been demonstrated and utilized. However, interspecies RNAi in rhizospheric microorganisms remains elusive. In this study, we developed a microbe-induced gene silencing (MIGS) technology by using a rhizospheric beneficial fungus, Trichoderma harzianum, to exploit an RNAi engineering microbe and two soil-borne pathogenic fungi, Verticillium dahliae and Fusarium oxysporum, as RNAi recipients. We first detected the feasibility of MIGS in inducing GFP silencing in V. dahliae. Then by targeting a fungal essential gene, we further demonstrated the effectiveness of MIGS in inhibiting fungal growth and protecting dicotyledon cotton and monocotyledon rice plants against V. dahliae and F. oxysporum. We also showed steerable MIGS specificity based on a selected target sequence. Our data verify interspecies RNAi in rhizospheric fungi and the potential application of MIGS in crop protection. In addition, the in situ propagation of a rhizospheric beneficial microbe would be optimal in ensuring the stability and sustainability of sRNAs, avoiding the use of nanomaterials to carry chemically synthetic sRNAs. Our finding reveals that exploiting MIGS-based biofungicides would offer straightforward design and implementation, without the need of host genetic modification, in crop protection against phytopathogens.

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