• Open Access

Resistance to Wheat streak mosaic virus generated by expression of an artificial polycistronic microRNA in wheat


(Tel 61 2 6246 5060; fax 61 2 6246 5000; email Philip.larkin@csiro.au)


Wheat streak mosaic virus (WSMV) is a persistent threat to wheat production, necessitating novel approaches for protection. We developed an artificial miRNA strategy against WSMV, incorporating five amiRNAs within one polycistronic amiRNA precursor. Using miRNA sequence and folding rules, we chose five amiRNAs targeting conserved regions of WSMV but avoiding off-targets in wheat. These replaced the natural miRNA in each of five arms of the polycistronic rice miR395, producing amiRNA precursor, FanGuard (FGmiR395), which was transformed into wheat behind a constitutive promoter. Splinted ligation detected all five amiRNAs being processed in transgenic leaves. Resistance was assessed over two generations. Three types of response were observed in T1 plants of different transgenic families: completely immune; initially resistant with resistance breaking down over time; and initially susceptible followed by plant recovery. Deep sequencing of small RNAs from inoculated leaves allowed the virus sequence to be assembled from an immune transgenic, susceptible transgenic, and susceptible non-transgenic plant; the amiRNA targets were fully conserved in all three isolates, indicating virus replication on some transgenics was not a result of mutational escape by the virus. For resistant families, the resistance segregated with the transgene. Analysis in the T2 generation confirmed the inheritance of immunity and gave further insights into the other phenotypes. Stable resistant lines developed no symptoms and no virus by ELISA; this resistance was classified as immunity when extracts failed to transmit from inoculated leaves to test plants. This study demonstrates the utility of a polycistronic amiRNA strategy in wheat against WSMV.