Double-stranded RNA targeting fungal ergosterol biosynthesis pathway controls Botrytis cinerea and postharvest gray mold

Danielle Duanis-Assaf, Ortal Galsurker, Olga Davydov, Dalia Maurer, Oleg Feygenberg, Moshe Sagi, Elena Poverenov, Robert Fluhr, Noam Alkan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Pathogenic fungi cause major postharvest losses. During storage and ripening, fruit becomes highly susceptible to fungi that cause postharvest disease. Fungicides are effective treatments to limit disease. However, due to increased public concern for their possible side effects, there is a need to develop new strategies to control postharvest fungal pathogens. Botrytis cinerea, a common postharvest pathogen, was shown to uptake small double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) molecules from the host plant. Such dsRNA can regulate gene expression through the RNA interference (RNAi) system. This work aimed to develop a synthetic dsRNA simultaneously targeting three essential transcripts active in the fungal ergosterol biosynthesis pathway (dsRNA-ERG). Our results show initial uptake of dsRNA in the emergence zone of the germination tube that spreads throughout the fungus and results in down-regulation of all three targeted transcripts. Application of dsRNA-ERG decreased B. cinerea germination and growth in in-vitro conditions and various fruits, leading to reduce gray-mold decay. The inhibition of growth or decay was reversed by the addition of ergosterol. While dual treatment with dsRNA-ERG and ergosterol-inhibitor fungicide reduced by 100-fold the required amount of fungicide to achieve the same protection rate. The application of dsRNA-ERG induced systemic protection as shown by decreased decay development at inoculation points distant from the treatment point in tomato and pepper fruits. Overall, this study suggests that dsRNA-ERG can effectively control B. cinerea growth and gray-mold development suggesting its efficacy as a future method for postharvest control of fungal pathogens.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPlant Biotechnology Journal
DOIs
StatePublished - 2021

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