Fri04192024

Last updateTue, 16 Apr 2024 10am

Back You are here: Inicio Agro-food technologies Technological offers Improving agricultural crops with artificial microRNAs

Improving agricultural crops with artificial microRNAs

The CSIC and the Universitat Politècnica de València have developed a new generation of treatments based on highly specific microRNAs. These treatments can be applied to plants in a non-transgenic way to control the expression of genes of interest. It serves as an alternative to current treatments relying on traditional agrochemicals.

The team has successfully tested the technology on tobacco plants of the species Nicotiana benthamiana, to which they applied plant extracts containing artificial microRNAs that inactivate chlorophyll biosynthesis genes and induce yellowing of the treated tissues.

MicroRNAs (or miRNAs) are small sequences of non-coding RNAs that regulate physiological processes in living organisms. In plants, microRNAs regulate processes such as flowering, leaf size and shape. They may also be involved in the plant's response to stress, drought, lack of nutrients or response to pathogens.

MicroRNAs inhibit the expression of an RNA. The latter intermediates in the expression of a gene encoded in DNA. Therefore, when an RNA is repressed, the corresponding gene is also repressed and in its turn the synthesis of proteins corresponding to that gene is also inhibited. It is this ability for inhibiting or silencing genes that makes microRNAs a promising tool for new biotechnological applications.

Inactivating genes on demand

The CSIC and the Universitat Politècnica de València have developed a new generation of microRNA-based treatments. The scientists have created artificial microRNAs designed to bind specifically to complementary RNA sequences, thus silencing the corresponding genes.

The microRNAs not only have activity in the part of the plant where they are applied, but also spread to other parts of the plant, achieving the same effect

These artificial microRNAs are produced using a harmless virus that is applied on the plant by spraying. The team has successfully tested the technology on tobacco plants of the species Nicotiana benthamiana, to which they applied plant extracts containing artificial microRNAs that inactivate chlorophyll biosynthesis genes and induce yellowing of the treated tissues.

In addition, they have shown that the microRNAs not only have activity in the part of the plant where they are applied, but also spread to other parts of the plant, achieving the same effect, which facilitates the application of the treatment.

Such treatments applied to agricultural crops may allow the selective inactivation of genes of interest, which could be used to increase productivity and crop quality, or improve plant adaptation to environmental changes.

Among the advantages of the development is the fact that they are highly specific treatments and that multiple treatments are not required (once is sufficient), which results in reduced application costs.

This new technology can contribute to improve crop productivity and quality in an environmentally friendly way, as the researchers say.  The team is now looking for agrochemical companies and crop variety developers to collaborate in the development of a market application based on the patented technology, under a patent licensing agreement.

 

Contact:
Laura Zacarés Sanmartín
Deputy Vice-Presidency
for Innovation
and Knowledge Transfer (CSIC)

Tel.: 963 87 99 29
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.