Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Molecular Pharming, Leafy Spurge and Viruses

Author
item Foley, Michael

Submitted to: Leafy Spurge News
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: August 1, 2000
Publication Date: September 1, 2000
Citation: Foley, M.E. Molecular pharming, leafy spurge and viruses. Leafy Spurge News. Vol. XXII, Issue 3. p. 9-12.

Interpretive Summary: Three years ago while I was still on the faculty at Purdue University, I attended a seminar on "molecular pharming." Molecular pharming is an off-shoot of biotechnology where plants are transformed with a gene (called a transgene) to achieve stable or transient expression of a recombinant protein (recall genes give rise to proteins). Most of the research in molecular pharming is aimed at producing very high-value products for use in human medicine, e.g., biopharmaceuticals. I was struck by how techniques in molecular pharming might be used to devise new approaches to weed management. Although I had not conducted research on leafy spurge since I left Montana State University more than 10 years ago, my first thought was about leafy spurge. Why? Because one of its close relatives - poinsettias - contains an endemic, nonpathogenic RNA virus. If this or some other virus could somehow be engineered to selectively attack leafy spurge, we might have another management tool. The host plant and virus being used in research by BioSource Technology (Vacaville, CA) are tobacco and the tobacco mosaic virus (TMV), respectively. TMV and the Euphorbia mosaic virus fall into a class called RNA viruses. RNA viruses have advantages over DNA viruses for some applications because the transgene does not get incorporated into the genome of the host plant (tobacco or poinsettia). This virus uses the plant's cellular machinery to obtain gene expression for limited purposes or a limited period of time. At the time I saw the seminar on molecular pharming, the company had engineered a strain of TMV with reduced pathogenesis.

Technical Abstract: Three years ago while I was still on the faculty at Purdue University, I attended a seminar on "molecular pharming." Molecular pharming is an off-shoot of biotechnology where plants are transformed with a gene (called a transgene) to achieve stable or transient expression of a recombinant protein (recall genes give rise to proteins). Most of the research in molecular pharming is aimed at producing very high-value products for use in human medicine, e.g., biopharmaceuticals. I was struck by how techniques in molecular pharming might be used to devise new approaches to weed management. Although I had not conducted research on leafy spurge since I left Montana State University more than 10 years ago, my first thought was about leafy spurge. Why? Because one of its close relatives - poinsettias - contains an endemic, nonpathogenic RNA virus. If this or some other virus could somehow be engineered to selectively attack leafy spurge, we might have another management tool. The host plant and virus being used in research by BioSource Technology (Vacaville, CA) are tobacco and the tobacco mosaic virus (TMV), respectively. TMV and the Euphorbia mosaic virus fall into a class called RNA viruses. RNA viruses have advantages over DNA viruses for some applications because the transgene does not get incorporated into the genome of the host plant (tobacco or poinsettia). This virus uses the plant's cellular machinery to obtain gene expression for limited purposes or a limited period of time. At the time I saw the seminar on molecular pharming, the company had engineered a strain of TMV with reduced pathogenesis.

Last Modified: 7/23/2014
Footer Content Back to Top of Page