Novel RNA Vaccine to Replace Pesticides in Plant

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Novel vaccines are found to target selected plant pathogen by using RNA molecules that share sequence identity with the pest’s genes and inhibits their expression

A new collaborative project between the University of Helsinki and the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) reported efficacy of environmentally friendly RNA-based vaccines that can protect plants from diseases and pests. Scientists are working on developing novel technologies to overcome harmful side effects caused by excessive use of pesticides. A novel vaccine could replace conventional pesticides to protect crop and other plants without any environmental risk.

New method helps in producing a vaccine that triggers RNA interference, which regulates an innate defense mechanism of plants, animals, and other eukaryotic organisms against pathogens. The researchers demonstrated the efficacy of RNA-based vaccines by utilizing the RNA amplification system of bacteriophage and the RNA production that takes place in bacterial cells. The vaccine works by targeting specific pathogen by using RNA molecules that share sequence identity with the pest’s genes and prevents their expression. The double-stranded RNA molecules do not affect the expression of genes in the protected plant and only target the plant disease or pest.

“The challenge in developing RNA-based vaccines to protect plants has involved the production of RNA molecules,” said Minna Poranen, PhD, of the Molecular and Integrative Biosciences Research Programme at the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences. “Double-stranded RNA molecules have been produced through chemical synthesis, both as drug molecules and for research purposes, but such production methods are inefficient and expensive for plant protection.”

Emerging technologies for crop protection include the external treatment of plants with double-stranded (ds) RNA to trigger RNA interference. However, quality and stability of the dsRNA decides the performance of this method in greenhouses and fields. The method is expected to enable the effective production of RNA-based vaccines and promote the development and adoption of RNA-based plant protection methods.

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