Disease Resistance Conferred by the Expression of a Gene Encoding a Synthetic Peptide in Transgenic Cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) Plants

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Fertile, transgenic cotton plants expressing the synthetic antimicrobial peptide, D4E1, were produced through Agrobacterium-mediated transformation. PCR products and Southern blots confirmed integration of the D4E1 gene, while RT-PCR of cotton RNA confirmed the presence of D4E1 transcripts. In vitro assays with crude leaf protein extracts from T0 and T1 plants confirmed that D4E1 was expressed at sufficient levels to inhibit the growth of Fusarium verticillioides and Verticillium dahliae compared to extracts from negative control plants transformed with pBI-d35SΩ-uidA-nos (CGUS). Although in vitro assays did not show control of pre-germinated spores of Aspergillus flavus, bioassays with cotton seeds in situ or in planta, inoculated with a GFP-expressing A. flavus, indicated that the transgenic cotton seeds inhibited extensive colonization and spread by the fungus in cotyledons and seed coats. In planta assays with the fungal pathogen,Thielaviopsis basicola, which causes black root rot in cotton, showed typical symptoms such as black discoloration and constriction on hypocotyls, reduced branching of roots in CGUS negative control T1 seedlings, while transgenic T1 seedlings showed a significant reduction in disease symptoms and increased seedling fresh weight, demonstrating tolerance to the fungal pathogen. Significant advantages of synthetic peptides in developing transgenic crop plants that are resistant to diseases and mycotoxin-causing fungal pathogens are highlighted in this report.