VOX pops cereal challenge

August 13, 2018

A plant virus with a simple genome promises to help crop scientists understand traits and diseases in wheat and maize more quickly and easily than existing techniques and, as its full potential is tapped, to work across a range of different plant species.

The Foxtail mosaic virus (FoMV) has now overcome the limitations of existing carriers, or vectors, to enable a much greater range of proteins to be expressed in host plants. It uses an established and popular technique known as virus-mediated overexpression (VOX), reports a team of investigators led by Rothamsted Research.

The team, which also includes Syngenta Technology in the US and Syngenta Crop Protection in Switzerland, selects genes from different organsims, including fungal pathogens, and transfers them into cereal crops. It then investigates the genes' functions by studying the effects of the proteins that they express. The team's findings are published in full in the August edition of Plant Physiology.

"The development has stirred much interest among cereal pathologists around the world since preliminary findings began to emerge in early June," says Kostya Kanyuka, a molecular plant pathologist at Rothamsted, who led the study and whose group specialises in state-of-the-art functional genomics.

"You don't need the whole (stable crop transformation) kitchen," says Kanyuka, emphasising the simplicity and cost effectiveness of his team's latest development. "And we've demonstrated successful expression of proteins up to 600 amino acids long, at least three times larger than was possible in the past."

Kanyuka notes: "The new FoMV-derived vector PV101 enables rapid and cost-effective expression of proteins in cereal plants as a route to understanding the function of their genes. And the range of proteins that can be expressed using this vector is wide, plus the new vector overcomes limitations of previously available VOX vectors."

According to Kim Hammond-Kosack, who leads molecular wheat disease research at Rothamsted and is a member of the team that developed the new vector: "The level and duration of expression of proteins of interest, both locally and systemically from the new FoMV-VOX vector, is impressive. It's enabled us to ramp up our de novo protein screening rate in wheat plants, and this is already benefiting several research projects."

The new FoMV-VOX vector is covered by a Material Transfer Agreement, which enables Rothamsted to make its technology developments available as open access and free of charge.


Foxtail mosaic virus: A viral vector for protein expression in cereals
Clément et al, August 2018, Plant Physiology, 177 (4) 1352-1367; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1104/pp.17.01679

Rothamsted Research contacts:

Kostya Kanyuka, Functional Genomics Scientist
Tel: +44 (0) 1582 938 232
E-mail: kostya.kanyuka@rothamsted.ac.uk

Kim Hammond-Kosack, Molecular Plant Pathologist
Tel: +44 (0) 1582 938 240
Email: kim.hammond-kosack@rothamsted.ac.uk

Susan Watts, Head of Communications
Tel: +44 (0) 1582 938 109
E-mail: susan.watts@rothamsted.ac.uk

About Rothamsted Research

Rothamsted Research is the oldest agricultural research institute in the world. We work from gene to field with a proud history of ground-breaking discoveries. Our founders, in 1843, were the pioneers of modern agriculture, and we are known for our imaginative science and our collaborative influence on fresh thinking and farming practices. Through independent science and innovation, we make significant contributions to improving agri-food systems in the UK and internationally. In terms of its economic contribution, the cumulative impact of our work in the UK exceeds £3000 million a year (Rothamsted Research and the Value of Excellence, by Séan Rickard, 2015). Our strength lies in our systems approach, which combines science and strategic research, interdisciplinary teams and partnerships. Rothamsted is also home to three unique resources. These National Capabilities are open to researchers from all over the world: The Long-Term Experiments, Rothamsted Insect Survey and the North Wyke Farm Platform. We are strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), with additional support from other national and international funding streams, and from industry.

For more information, visit https://www.rothamsted.ac.uk/; Twitter @Rothamsted


BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond. Funded by Government, BBSRC invested over £469M in world-class bioscience in 2016-17. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

More information about BBSRC, our science and our impact.

More information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes

About LAT

The Lawes Agricultural Trust, established in 1889 by Sir John Bennet Lawes, supports Rothamsted Research's national and international agricultural science through the provision of land, facilities and funding. LAT, a charitable trust, owns the estates at Harpenden and Broom's Barn, including many of the buildings used by Rothamsted Research. LAT provides an annual research grant to the Director, accommodation for nearly 200 people, and support for fellowships for young scientists from developing countries. LAT also makes capital grants to help modernise facilities at Rothamsted, or invests in new buildings.

Syngenta contacts:

Monika Spiller, Collaboration Manager
Tel: +49 (0) 5222 530 8221
E-mail: monika.spiller@syngenta.com

Amy Stapleton, Global Communications Manager - Crop Protection
Tel: +41 (0) 61 323 1051
E-mail: monika.spiller@syngenta.com

About Syngenta

Syngenta helps humanity face its toughest challenge: how to feed a rising population, sustainably. Farmers are at the heart of everything we do. We apply world-class science and the most productive research and development in the industry to achieve a step change in agricultural productivity. In more than 90 countries around the world, our employees enable millions of farmers to improve global food security by making better, more sustainable use of available resources.

Rothamsted Research

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