Cassava production in India is drastically affected by cassava mosaic disease (CMD) caused by the Indian cassava mosaic virus (ICMV) and Sri Lankan cassava mosaic virus (SLCMV). An attempt was done to develop transgenic cassava lines resistant to SLCMV through RNAi vector targeting a conserved 440 bp of 5’ end of SLCMV Rep (AC1) gene which also overlaps with part of AC4 gene, and functions as a viral RNAi suppressor protein. The partial Rep gene of SLCMV was cloned in sense and anti-sense orientations in the RNAi intermediate vector, pHANNIBAL and finally mobilised into binary vector pART27, to construct pSCR1 which contains the kanamycin-resistance gene as a plant selectable marker. In order to use hygromycin as selection agent in cassava genetic transformation, Rep-RNAi gene cassettes of SLCMV was cloned into pCAMBIA1305.2 and the constructs was named pSCR2. Agrobacterium mediated cocultivation of cassava embryogenic calli was done with the developed RNAi constructs using two different explants namely, immature leaf lobes and somatic cotyledons. In total, 48 putative transgenic cassava shoots were regenerated on a regeneration medium containing 30 mgl/l hygromycin, of which 2 putative transgenic plants were transferred for hardening. All the putative transgenic cassava plants were PCR-positive for hph gene and Rep gene indicating integration of transgenes of interest.
Key words: RNAi constructs, cocultivation, cassava mosaic disease (CMD).
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