Overexpression of rice thaumatin-like protein (Ostlp) gene in transgenic cassava results in enhanced tolerance to Colletotrichum gloeosporioides f. sp. manihotis
Ojola, Patroba Odeny
Nyaboga, Evans N.
Njiru, Paul N.
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Cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) is the most important staple food for more than 300 million people in Africa, and anthracnose disease caused by Colletotrichum gloeosporioides f. sp. manihotis is the most destructive fungal disease affecting cassava production in sub-Saharan Africa. The main objective of this study was to improve anthracnose resistance in cassava through genetic engineering. Transgenic cassava plants harbouring rice thaumatin-like protein (Ostlp) gene, driven by the constitutive CaMV35S promoter, were generated using Agrobacterium-mediated transformation of friable embryogenic calli (FEC) of cultivar TMS 60444. Molecular analysis confirmed the presence, integration, copy number of the transgene all the independent transgenic events. Semi-quantitative RT-PCR confirmed high expression levels of Ostlp in six transgenic lines tested. The antifungal activity of the transgene against Colletotrichum gloeosporioides pathogen was evaluated using the leaves and stem cuttings bioassay. The results demonstrated significantly delayed disease development and reduced size of necrotic lesions in leaves and stem cuttings of all transgenic lines compared to the leaves and stem cuttingss of non-transgenic control plants. Therefore, constitutive overexpression of rice thaumatin-like protein in transgenic cassava confers enhanced tolerance to the fungal pathogen C. gloeosporioides f. sp. manihotis. These results can therefore serve as an initial step towards genetic engineering of farmer-preffered cassava cultivars for resistance to anthracnose disease.