Heat Shock-Based Activation of Systemic Acquired Resistance in Arabidopsis thaliana

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Adhvaith Sridhar
Jon Cody
Daniel Voytas

Abstract

Crop wastage, especially that caused by pests and pathogens, is becoming an increasingly pressing problem. Genetic technology and its advances may be applied to agriculture and farming in order to combat the wastage. Previous research has attempted to use genetic techniques to make plants more resistant to drought, increased salt concentrations in the environment, decreased nutrients in the soil, and other detriments to crop growth. In this project, genetic technology was leveraged to attempt to create a genetically modified plant that had an increased ability to resist pathogenic and pest-based damage. In particular, the experimental plant Arabidopsis thaliana had its Systemic Acquired Resistance immune pathway modified to better resist the bacterium Pseudomonas syringae. A concern with using crops that have enhanced immune systems, however, is that pests and pathogens will evolve to attain resistance to the enhanced immune response. To prevent this, the enhanced immune system was further modified to only activate when it was exposed to an external stimulus. This way, the enhanced immune system was not always activated. Therefore, pests and pathogens had a decreased amount of time to acclimate to or experience the enhanced system, thus slowing down the evolution of resistance to the plant’s enhanced immune system. In this project, the crop wastage is addressed with the consideration of a potential evolution of resistance by pests and pathogens, a novel exploration. Although the edits to experimental plants’ genomes did not generate a statistically significant resistance to pests and pathogens when compared to unmodified plants, a likely source of error is identified and explained for future research to address. This work’s contribution towards the identification of a functional solution to crop wastage due to pests and pathogens has multiple potential positive implications including fighting food shortages and beneficially impacting the agricultural sector of the global economy.  

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Biological, Animal, and Health Sciences