Turkish Journal of Biology




Plant defensins are multifunctional small cysteine-rich proteins. They are active against fungi, bacteria, and many viruses, and they inhibit trypsin and α-amylase activities. In this study, we expressed the maize defensin gene (ZmDEF1) in tobacco seeds in order to establish the basis for generating transgenic maize plants resistant to weevils. The ZmDEF1 gene was isolated from Maison, a Vietnamese local maize cultivar, which is well known for having the highest resistance to weevils among other local cultivars. The ZmDEF1 gene was cloned into a binary vector, pBetaPhaso-dest, which carries phaseolin, a seed-specific promoter, to direct defensin expression in tobacco seeds. We obtained 13 transgenic tobacco lines from Agrobacterium-mediated transformation and regeneration, called the T0 generation. T0's seeds (called the T1 generation) were collected and analyzed for ZmDEF1 gene expression. Reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) results showed that 4 out of 13 lines (T1-1, T1-3, T1-10, and T1-17) expressed the ZmDEF1 gene at the transcriptional level. These lines were further analyzed by real-time RT-PCR until their transcript expression could be identified. The results showed that the line T1-17 expressed it at the highest expression level. The western blot method also showed that ZmDEF1 was expressed in all four lines above. These transgenic seeds can inhibit maize weevils' α-amylase activity. Extracted protein from transgenic lines reduced weevil α-amylase activity by 67.9%-71.4% in comparison with protein extracted from nontransgenic plants. These results will hopefully provide a useful background to create transgenic maize plants with high resistance to weevils.


Defensin, cysteine, ZmDEF1 gene, Zea mays, Sitophilus zeamais Motsch.

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