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Department of Agronomy

Kansas State University

1712 Claflin Rd.

2004 Throckmorton PSC

Manhatan, KS 66506

785-532-6101

agronomy@ksu.edu

Extension Agronomy

New K-State patent for genetically shutting off soybean cyst nematodes

(Note: The following article is an edited version of a short K-State Research and Extension YouTube video produced by Dan Donnert, KSRE videographer. The link to this video is: https://youtu.be/Iyknx7pJoGI – Steve Watson, Agronomy eUpdate Editor)

 

Harold Trick and Tim Todd in the Department of Plant Pathology have looked at trying to enhance soybeans for resistance against soybean cyst nematodes. In a K-State Research and Extension video, Trick explained their research:

Figure 1. Soybean cyst nematode. https://youtu.be/Iyknx7pJoGI

 

The way we did this was to genetically modify soybeans with molecules that will turn specific genes off in the nematode. In order to do that, we created genetically engineered vectors. We put those vectors into soybeans to deliver the molecules to the soybeans. The process in which these molecules act on the nematodes is called RNA interference, or RNAi. It’s a way to turn genes in the nematodes off, or down-regulate them.

The idea behind this research is that when soybean cyst nematodes feed on the roots of these genetically engineered soybeans, they will be ingesting small molecules that will target and silence specific genes within the nematodes. The targeted genes within the nematodes will be turned off. As a result, the nematodes will either lose fitness or have reduced reproduction.

To target genes that would be effective against the soybean cyst nematodes, we first had to look for specific traits that we thought was necessary for nematode survival and reproduction. After we found those specific genes in the nematodes, we then created vectors that would deliver molecules into soybeans that would specifically target those genes we identified in nematodes. This is a genetically engineered product.

So we put those molecules into a specific line of soybeans. Then we needed to move those traits into cultivars adapted to Kansas and eventually we hope to deploy these in the field to make sure they are well adapted.

Figure 2. Creating the new line of transgenic soybeans in the lab. https://youtu.be/Iyknx7pJoGI

 

After these new lines of soybeans were grown in the greenhouse, we sampled soybean cyst nematodes from the roots of the transgenic soybean plants and ground them up. We looked specifically at the genes, and the regulation of those genes within the nematodes. We found that we are in fact suppressing those genes we were targeting within the nematodes. We also noticed that within some of these plants, we have up to 85% reduction in the number of nematodes.

Steve Watson, Agronomy eUpdate Editor
swatson@ksu.edu