Transgenic anti-fungal gene expression in heterologous species provides a means to test resistance protein combinations across species barriers. This is the first report of transgenic anti-fungal seed storage protein accumulation in oat seed. An anti-fungal barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) hordothionin (Hth1) gene was genetically engineered into oat (Avena sativa L.) to determine the effect of hordothionin on pathogen resistance. The transgene was expressed in both leaf and seed tissue, with transgenic protein accumulation occurring only in the seed. Transgenic oat line HTH-Av5 expressed c. 94 μg HTH/g seed, 19% of native barley seed levels. The anti-fungal activities of HTH fractions from barley cv. Morex and oat (transgenic and control) were tested in an in vitro growth assay against an important small grain pathogen, Fusarium graminearum. The partially purified HTH fractions from control oat seeds did not inhibit fungal growth, while HPLC-purified HTH positive control, as well as partially purified barley and transgenic oat HTH inhibited growth similarly over a range of concentrations. These results indicate hordothionin can be expressed in a heterologous cereal species and still maintain its anti-fungal properties. Future studies with HTH targeted to additional tissues are planned to test for increased fungal resistance.
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Vol. 42 • No. 4