Our beloved bananas are under threat from a fungus that attacks the roots of the plant causing the plants to wilt. But finally scientists have given the banana plant something to make it resistant to this “Panama disease”, a resistance gene from a wild banana.
Reported on the website of the New Food Magazine, the scientists from Australia have inserted a gene from wild banana (RGA2) that conveys resistance to the wilt into the yellow banana that we are familiar with, the Cavendish banana. They also inserted a gene from a nematode (Ced9) into other “lines”. The resulting modified banana plants were grown on heavily infested soil along with some different types of non-disease resistant control banana plants.
After 3 years, two of the modified banana plant lines remained disease free, one of the ones with the RGA2 gene and one with the Ced9 gene. Some of the other lines containing the RGA2 gene demonstrated increased disease resistance but it was not completely resistant. Of the control plants 67-100% exhibited the disease.
The scientists state that homologs of the RGA2 gene (genes that are related) are also present in the Cavendish but are expressed at only one tenth the amount compared to the expression in the modified lines.
So I guess then that if the public is not keen on inserting a gene into the banana plant perhaps the expression of the resident gene can be tweaked.