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Development of CRISPR/Cas9 mediated virus resistance

Anindita Chakraborty: Murdoch University

<div>Plant RNA viruses are a very diverse group of viruses, capable of causing significant damage in crops, and potentially posing a threat to food security on local and global scales. Gene editing has enormous potential in the control of plant pathogens in agricultural crops. However, RNA viruses are not an obvious target for gene editing technologies because CRISPR/Cas9 targets DNA, not RNA. In this study we investigated novel strategies to control RNA viruses in plants using a highly flexible CRISPR/Cas9-based approach. The strategy depends on both specific and degenerate sgRNAs and their targeted delivery. Studies focused on design of the sgRNAs, their specific (species) and generalised (genera, family) targets, delivery to sites of action, and stability over time. Current studies will test the concept on one family of RNA viruses, the <em>Potyviridae</em>, but future studies will test the system against other groups of RNA viruses. The current study was done using <em>Nicotiana tabacum</em> L plants as a model system because of ease of transformation and large leaf surface area and biomass. Research in this model plant will provide proof of concept for applications to economically important crop species. Implications of a successful outcome of this research will be novel control strategies against, potentially, all plant RNA viruses.</div>