Can peptides replace plant genetic engineering? – Scivit
Scientists from the university Toulouse have succeeded in using peptides for triggering a developmental switch in soybean resulting in higher nodulation rates. Their work demonstrates that plant features typically addressed by plant genetic engineering can be affected by less controversial approaches.
Soybean, together with other leguminous plants, is able to host nitrogen-fixing bacteria (rhizobia) in specific root nodules. This rhizobial symbiosis results in a better provision of plants with nitrogen. It may be an important means to decrease the application of nitrogen fertilizers in the future. The amount of nodules a given root system develops is controled by a complex genetic network. Technically, the aim of improving plant nitrogen provision and of increasing the number of root nodules can be achieved by modifying this genetic network using genetic engineering. The authors had observed, however, that one particular switch (miR172c) in the network was suitable to be affected by small, externally applied molecules (miPEP172c). Peptides as miPEP172c are ubiquitous biological molecules with very specific effects. While every peptide eventually used should be checked for toxic effects and biodegradability, there is a good chance that many peptides will be neither toxic nor persistent.
The results presented by the authors demonstrate that it is basically possible to specifically affect complex plant genetic regulation networks using such peptides. Next steps should address agronomic applicability and relevance of the approach.