Improving cassava bacterial blight resistance by editing the epigenome

Kira M. Veley, Kiona Elliott, Greg Jensen, Zhenhui Zhong, Suhua Feng, Marisa Yoder, Kerrigan B. Gilbert, Jeffrey C. Berry, Zuh Jyh Daniel Lin, Basudev Ghoshal, Javier Gallego-Bartolomé, Joanna Norton, Sharon Motomura-Wages, James C. Carrington, Steven E. Jacobsen, Rebecca S. Bart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Pathogens rely on expression of host susceptibility (S) genes to promote infection and disease. As DNA methylation is an epigenetic modification that affects gene expression, blocking access to S genes through targeted methylation could increase disease resistance. Xanthomonas phaseoli pv. manihotis, the causal agent of cassava bacterial blight (CBB), uses transcription activator-like20 (TAL20) to induce expression of the S gene MeSWEET10a. In this work, we direct methylation to the TAL20 effector binding element within the MeSWEET10a promoter using a synthetic zinc-finger DNA binding domain fused to a component of the RNA-directed DNA methylation pathway. We demonstrate that this methylation prevents TAL20 binding, blocks transcriptional activation of MeSWEET10a in vivo and that these plants display decreased CBB symptoms while maintaining normal growth and development. This work therefore presents an epigenome editing approach useful for crop improvement.

Original languageEnglish
Article number85
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023


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