Department of Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology, Agricultural BioScience Facility, Montana State University, Bozeman 59717-3150, U.S.A.
Antimicrobial peptides play a role in the immune systems of animals and plants by limiting pathogen infection and growth. The puroindolines, endosperm-specific proteins involved in wheat seed hardness, are small proteins reported to have in vitro antimicrobial properties. Rice, the most widely used cereal crop worldwide, normally does not contain puroindolines. Transgenic rice plants that constitutively express the puroindoline genes pinA and/or pinB throughout the plants were produced. PIN extracts of leaves from the transgenic plants reduced in vitro growth of Magnaporthe grisea and Rhizoctonia solani, two major fungal pathogens of rice, by 35 to 50%. Transgenic rice expressing pinA and/or pinB showed significantly increased tolerance to M. grisea (rice blast), with a 29 to 54% reduction in symptoms, and R. solani (sheath blight), with an 11 to 22% reduction in symptoms. Puroindolines are effective in vivo in antifungal proteins and could be valuable new tools in the control of a wide range of fungal pathogens of crop plants.