The viral gene for the killer protein 4 (KP4) has been explored for its antifungal effect in genetically modified wheat to defeat specifically the seed-transmitted smut and bunt diseases. In vitro both important seed-transmitted diseases of wheat, loose smut (Ustilago tritici) and stinking smut (Tilletia caries), are susceptible to KP4, whereas all other organisms tested so far proved to be not susceptible to KP4. For studies in planta we used stinking smut as a model fungus. In greenhouse experiments, two KP4-transgenic wheat lines showed up to 30% lower symptom development as compared to the nontransgenic control. As the last step in the proof of concept, field-testing has shown for the first time increased fungal resistance of a transgene in wheat. Due to its specificity against smuts and bunts, KP4 presents a very low risk to humans and the environment. Field-testing in Switzerland is regulated by a strong law, which for research is acceptable if legally and scientifically correctly applied.
Adv. Biochem. Eng. Biotechnol. (Advances in biochemical engineering/biotechnology)
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