Menu

Geneticists Engineer a Virus to Fight Citrus Disease

Scientists hope to save oranges from a bacterial disease that causes citrus greening, a disease that leads to bitter, discolored fruit.

May 17, 2017
Diana Kwon

FLICKR, RAFAEL CASTILLO

Since 2005, Candidatus Liberibacter, a genus of bacteria that is spread by Asian citrus psyllids (Diaphorina citri) and turns fruit green and bitter, has been devastating orange crops in the United States. “There’s a real race on right now to try to save the citrus,” Carolyn Slupsky, a food scientist at the University of California, Davis, told Nature. “This disease is everywhere, and it’s horrible.”

To combat this rapidly spreading pathogen, scientists at the Florida-based agricultural company Southern Gardens Citrus engineered a harmless strain of the citrus tristeza virus (CTV) to produce genes isolated from spinach plants that fight off the harmful bacteria. The company plans to infect tree limbs with this virus then graft them onto the bacteria-infected trees.

“We’re attacking the bacteria where it lives, and we can do it without changing the biology of the tree at all,” Tim Eyrich, Southern Gardens’ vice president of research and commercialization, told Wired.

In February, the company applied to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) for permission to use this technology, and field trials are currently ongoing. Last week, the required period for public comment regarding the engineered virus ended, and the USDA now will assess its potential environmental impact, according to Nature.

Other efforts to fight the plant pathogen include switching off transmission-related genes in insect vectors with RNA interference and editing citrus tree genomes with CRISPR-Cas9. “There are great scientific opportunities here,” Bryce Falk, a plant pathologist at the University of California, Davis, told Nature. “We need to take advantage of new technologies.”

January 2019

Cannabis on Board

Research suggests ill effects of cannabinoids in the womb

Marketplace

Sponsored Product Updates

FORMULATRIX® digital PCR technology to be acquired by QIAGEN
FORMULATRIX® digital PCR technology to be acquired by QIAGEN
FORMULATRIX has announced that their digital PCR assets, including the CONSTELLATION® series of instruments, is being acquired by QIAGEN N.V. (NYSE: QGEN, Frankfurt Stock Exchange: QIA) for up to $260 million ($125 million upfront payment and $135 million of milestones).  QIAGEN has announced plans for a global launch in 2020 of a new series of digital PCR platforms that utilize the advanced dPCR technology developed by FORMULATRIX combined with QIAGEN’s expertise in assay development and automation.
Application of CRISPR/Cas to the Generation of Genetically Engineered Mice
Application of CRISPR/Cas to the Generation of Genetically Engineered Mice
With this application note from Taconic, learn about the power that the CRISPR/Cas system has to revolutionize the field of custom mouse model generation!
Translational Models of Obesity, Dysmetabolism, Diabetes, and Complications
Translational Models of Obesity, Dysmetabolism, Diabetes, and Complications
This webinar, from Crown Bioscience, presents a unique continuum of translational dysmetabolic platforms that more closely mimic human disease. Learn about using next-generation rodent and spontaneously diabetic non-human primate models to accurately model human-relevant disease progression and complications related to obesity and diabetes here!
BiochemAR: an augmented reality app for easy visualization of virtual 3D molecular models
BiochemAR: an augmented reality app for easy visualization of virtual 3D molecular models
Have you played Pokemon Go? Then you've used Augmented Reality (AR) technology! AR technology holds substantial promise and potential for providing a low-cost, easy to use digital platform for the manipulation of virtual 3D objects, including 3D models of biological macromolecules.