RNA emerges as a new way of combatting flavescence dorée in vineyards

Tuesday June 22 2021 by Vitisphere

 Using RNA technology, the ability of the S. titanus leafhopper to transmit flavescence dorée phytoplasma to grapevines could be eliminated. Using RNA technology, the ability of the S. titanus leafhopper to transmit flavescence dorée phytoplasma to grapevines could be eliminated.

Could RNA technology, used in certain anti-Covid vaccines, also be used to combat flavescence dorée in the future? This is the new avenue being explored at the Inrae laboratory in Bordeaux. The idea is to suppress the ability of the Scaphoideus titanus leafhopper to acquire and transmit the flavescence phytoplasma by injecting it with RNA interference that prevents the synthesis of a protein called adhesin VmpA. Inrae has demonstrated that through this protein, located on the membrane of the insect's epithelial cells, the insect recognises the flavescence dorée phytoplasma, allowing it to penetrate its cells and multiply.

 

Initial laboratory results are interesting. “In the best cases, researchers have observed a block in the ability to transmit the disease for up to 12 days, depending on the injection method used”, explained Audrey Petit of the IFV South-West section on 1 June, during a webinar on ‘the latest advances in research on flavescence dorée’, organised by the national vine die-back project. 

 

But there is no reason to get too excited yet. For the moment, the tests are only preliminary and a long way off being rolled out in the field. “It is not an issue at this point. Large-scale production of RNA interference is very complicated and expensive. To date I have no time frame”, claimed Petit. “This is primarily a method that we are using to better understand transmission mechanisms”, added Sylvie Malembic-Maher from Inrae in Bordeaux, confirming that field trials will not happen overnight.

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