Overexpression of Defense Genes to Improve Plant Resistance to a Broad Spectrum of Pathogens

Technology #15720

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Zhonglin Mou
Xudong Zhang
Yezhang Ding
Kevin Michael Folta
Managed By
John Byatt
Assistant Director 352-392-8929

Finding Suggests Environmentally Sound Solution for Managing Fungal and Bacterial Infection in Variety of Crops

This genetic modification improves a plant’s natural ability to combat a broad spectrum of pathogenic bacteria and fungi. Bacterial and fungal pathogens, such as powdery mildew, angular leaf spot, or anthracnose crown rot, can dramatically reduce crop yields. Agricultural output has to double in the next 20-30 years to feed the world’s population, expected to grow by an additional 1.7 billion people by 2030. A number of identified genes or gene variants provide resistance to specific pathogens. In addition, some pathogens can initiate general plant defense mechanisms. Researchers at the University of Florida have discovered that overexpression of Elongator genes likely improves resistance to a broad spectrum of pathogens. Improving crop disease resistance should decrease the use of certain antimicrobial pesticides, which would reduce input costs and make agricultural production more environmentally friendly.


Overexpression of Elongator genes to increase plant disease resistance


  • Enhances natural plant disease resistance, increasing overall plant crop yield
  • Integrates with existing crops and protects from multiple diseases, enhancing versatility
  • Reduces the need for bactericides, fungicides, and other pathogen-specific pesticides, potentially lowering costs and environmental impact


Dr. Mou and colleagues have demonstrated that overexpression of certain of the Elongator gene familiy (ELP1, ELP2, ELP3, ELP4, ELP5, and ELP6) enhances plant disease resistance (in Arabidopsis, strawberry, citrus, and tomato to multiple pathogens). Elongator is a six-subunit protein complex, which is highly conserved in eukaryotes. In plants, Elongator is required for several physiological processes including plant immunity. It has been shown that Elongator functions in DNA methylation/demethylation, histone acetylation, and tRNA modification. Its role in plant disease resistance may involve all these functions. Using strawberry plants, researchers have demonstrated that overexpression of ELP3 and ELP4 significantly reduces disease progression of anthracnose crown rot; they’ve also found the number of spores of powdery mildew was 90 to 96 percent lower in transgenic plants than in the control group. Experiments with citrus and tomato also have generated similar encouraging results.