Rice blast, caused by Magnaporthe grisea, is the most important fungal disease of cultivated rice worldwide. We have developed a strategy for creating disease resistance to M. grisea whereby pathogen-induced expression of the afp (antifungal protein) gene from Aspergillus giganteus occurs in transgenic rice plants. Here, we evaluated the activity of the promoters from three maize pathogenesis-related (PR) genes, ZmPR4, mpi, and PRms, in transgenic rice. Chimeric gene fusions were prepared between the maize promoters and the β-glucuronidase reporter gene (gus A). Histochemical assays of GUS activity in transgenic rice revealed that the ZmPR4 promoter is strongly induced in response to fungal infection, treatment with fungal elicitors, and mechanical wounding. The ZmPR4 promoter is not active in the seed endosperm. The mpi promoter also proved responsiveness to fungal infection and wounding but not to treatment with elicitors. In contrast, no activity of the PRms promoter in leaves of transgenic rice was observed. Transgenic plants expressing the afp gene under the control of the ZmPR4 promoter were generated. Transformants showed resistance to M. grisea at various levels. Our results suggest that pathogen-inducible expression of the afp gene in rice plants may be a practical way for protection against the blast fungus.
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