Production of cecropin A antimicrobial peptide in rice seed endosperm

Background: Cecropin A is a natural antimicrobial peptide that exhibits rapid, potent and long-lasting lytic activity against a broad spectrum of pathogens, thus having great biotechnological potential. Here, we report a system for producing bioactive cecropin A in rice seeds. Results: Transgenic rice plants expressing a codon-optimized synthetic cecropin A gene drived by an endosperm-specific promoter, either the glutelin B1 or glutelin B4 promoter, were generated. The signal peptide sequence from either the glutelin B1 or the glutelin B4 were N-terminally fused to the coding sequence of the cecropin A. We also studied whether the presence of the KDEL endoplasmic reticulum retention signal at the C-terminal has an effect on cecropin A subcellular localization and accumulation. The transgenic rice plants showed stable transgene integration and inheritance. We show that cecropin A accumulates in protein storage bodies in the rice endosperm, particularly in type II protein bodies, supporting that the glutelin N-terminal signal peptides play a crucial role in directing the cecropin A to this organelle, independently of being tagged with the KDEL endoplasmic reticulum retention signal. The production of cecropin A in transgenic rice seeds did not affect seed viability or seedling growth. Furthermore, transgenic cecropin A seeds exhibited resistance to infection by fungal and bacterial pathogens (Fusarium verticillioides and Dickeya dadantii, respectively) indicating that the in planta-produced cecropin A is biologically active. Conclusions: Rice seeds can sustain bioactive cecropin A production and accumulation in protein bodies. The system might benefit the production of this antimicrobial agent for subsequent applications in crop protection and food preservation ​
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