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Method to increase cereals resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses wherein MADS-box gene function is inactivated

A research team has recently discovered that rice plant mutants with a defective MADS-box gene are resistant to plant diseases and water stress. This innovation deals with novel and efficient methods for producing plants resistant to biotic and abiotic stress, wherein the expression of a MADS-box gene, and more particularly MADS26, is inhibited

Rizière au stade de la levée du  RIZ  ( CAMARGUE ). © BARBIER Jean-Marc
Updated on 02/08/2013
Published on 01/22/2013

Rice is subjected to important diseases which dramatically reduce crop yields: i) the rice blast, a devastating disease induced by fungi from the Magnaporthe genus, affects cereal grain crops such as rice, wheat, rye, and barley; ii) the bacterial blight, caused by the bacterium Xanthomonas oryzae, is responsible for as much as over 70% of yield losses in Asia. Furthermore, drought stress is an increasing, worldwide problem which affects about 50% of the global rice production each year. Plant breeders’ and geneticists’ attempts to produce new varieties that better tolerate water deficit or pest attack have not resulted in any satisfactory cultivars yet.
MADS-box genes encode transcription factors involved in diverse developmental processes in plants. A research team steered by Jean-Benoit Morel provides the first example ever found of a plant transcription factor of the MADS-box family negatively regulating biotic and abiotic stress response. In rice, the MADS26 gene may be involved in maturation or senescence processes. Researchers reported that rice plants with a defective MADS26 gene are more resistant to Magnaporthe oryzae and Xanthomonas oryzae (80% and 65 % reduced sensitivity to these pathogenic agents, respectively) while plants over-expressing the MADS26 gene are more susceptible to plant diseases. Furthermore, inhibiting MADS26 gene expression increases plant tolerance of severe drought stress.

Thus, the MADS26 gene can be used as a target to improve rice plant resistance to diseases such as blast and bacterial blight, but also to improve plant resistance to drought stress. Obtaining such combined favorable traits using one gene is thus far unique in cereals.

This innovation deals with novel and efficient methods for producing plants resistant to biotic and abiotic stress, wherein the expression of a MADS-box gene, and more particularly MADS26, is inhibited. This provides new breeding and selection tools for crop breeders as well as strategies for enhanced crop varieties by mutagenesis and transgenic approaches:

  • Diagnostic methods for selecting plants with an allele of the MADS26 gene having a mutation resulting in total or partial inhibition of the expression and/or the activity of said transcription factor
  • Introgression of the MADS26 mutant allele into chosen elite lines, i.e. lines that have a substantial agronomic and commercial potential
  • Down regulation of endogenous MADS26 in a transgenic plant
  • Production of transgenic plants with reduced susceptibility to fungus and bacterial pathogens and increased tolerance to water deficit.

This technology is addressed to the plant breeding industry for the generation of new cereal varieties (e.g. rice, barley, oat, sorghum, etc.)* with increased resistance to both biotic and abiotic stresses.
* Except wheat and maize, for which license rights are not available

Any request should be addressed to INRA Transfert which is in charge of the transfer of this technology (WO2012/059559 filed by INRA, CIRAD, University Montpellier II).

Scientific contact(s):

  • Jean-Benoit MOREL UMR0385 Biologie et Génétique des interactions plantes-parasites pour la Protection Intégrée BGPI
Technology transfer officer:
Hélène GENTY - INRA Transfert (+33 (0) 4 99 61 23 72)