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BIONÆR-Bionæringsprogram

Towards a sustainable control of wheat dwarf virus disease in China and Norway by application of CRISPR and Next Generation Sequencing

Alternative title: Utvikling av bærekraftig bekjempelse av virus i hvete i Kina og Norge ved å anvende CRISPR-teknologi og Next generation sequencing.

Awarded: NOK 4.4 mill.

Cereals (wheat, barley and rye) are dominant staple food crop grown worldwide and are among the most important crops in the world. In Norway and China, wheat has significant importance as a food source and also has a socio-economic impact on the development of both countries. These cereals are affected by pathogens, insect pests, and weeds. Among them, viruses are the most difficult to control since, unlike diseases caused by fungi, viral diseases cannot be controlled with the use of fungicides. Once a viral disease has established on a field, there are no means by which it can be eradicated. To date, 200 different viral species are known to infect cereals worldwide. Most of the cereal viruses are transmitted by a winged-vector. These vectors, due to climate change, are believed to increase their distribution. Therefore, it of utmost importance to understand the biology of viruses and device methods to control viral diseases that might propose a risk for sustainable agriculture in the near future. In this project, The Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO) and The Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) will cooperate to work towards a sustainable control of the wheat dwarf virus disease. This will be carried out by studying the molecular interactions between the virus, the vector and the host using cutting-edge molecular techniques. This project will result in knowledge that can be directly used to control viral diseases in wheat. To date, this project has discovered various plant proteins that might have an important role in the transmission of the virus by the vector. This has been accomplished using a proteomic approach. In addition, utilizing next generation sequencing, this project has determined various plant genes which seem to be involved in the ability of the virus to infect the plant. The identification of these plant proteins and genes, which are involved in virus transmission and infectivity, is currently being used to develop a gene editing strategy to generate resistance to the virus. We have also enhanced the CRISPR tool box by developing a base-editing-mediated gene evolution (BEMGE) method which employs a Cas9n-based cytosine and adenine base editors as well as a single-guide RNA (sgRNA). This new tool, together with our newly described Cas9 variants, is being implemented in our research. Moreover, we are currently exploring the possibility of eliminating viruses using two other Cas proteins (Cas13b and Cas13d) using a protoplast system.

The Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) and the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO) will cooperate to work towards a sustainable control of the wheat dwarf virus disease. Wheat has significant importance as a food source, and also an important socio-economic impact on the development of the two countries. Viruses are the most difficult pathogen to control since viral diseases cannot be controlled by the use of fungicides. Wheat dwarf virus is the most damaging wheat virus in China, and one of the most important wheat-infecting viruses in Norway. The positive outcome of the project will: (1) Contribute towards sustainable agriculture of wheat, the second most grown crop in the world. (2) Demonstrate the value and importance of applying novel, cutting-edge techniques (CRISPR-Cas9) next generation sequencing to plant health and plant protection. (3) In an climate change framework, handle a disease transmitted by a winged-vector, which due to climate change is believed to become an increasing threat to sustainable agriculture all over the world including, China and Norway. (4) Develop resistant varieties of wheat and thus contributing to the establishment of an environmentally friendly agriculture of wheat. The project will result in knowledge that can be directly used to control viral diseases in wheat. In this context, the project will promote information and result sharing to important farmer associations that would largely benefit from project results. The project will also focus on dissemination and transfer of scientific knowledge on sustainable agriculture by education of MSc and PhD students in both countries and thus securing adequate scientific follow up of the project. Finally, it is important to underline that NIBIO and CAAS have ongoing bilateral projects and that this project will pursue and enhance the current fruitful ongoing research cooperation between Norway and China.

Funding scheme:

BIONÆR-Bionæringsprogram