Transgenic expression of Arabidopsis ELONGATION FACTOR-TU RECEPTOR (AtEFR) gene in banana enhances resistance to Banana Xanthomonas Wilt disease

Banana Xanthomonas wilt (BXW) caused by Xanthomonas campestris pv. musacearum (Xcm) is a severe bacterial disease devastating banana production in East and Central Africa, where banana is cultivated as a staple crop. Classical breeding of banana is challenging because the crop is clonally propagated and has limited genetic diversity. Thus, genetic engineering serves as a viable alternative for banana improvement. Several studies have shown that interfamily transfer of the elongation factor Tu receptor gene (AtEFR) from Arabidopsis thaliana to other plant families can increase broad-spectrum resistance against bacterial diseases. In this study, transgenic events of banana cultivar dwarf Cavendish expressing the AtEFR gene were generated and evaluated for resistance against Xcm under greenhouse conditions. The transgenic banana events were responsive to the EF-Tu-derived elf18 peptide and exhibited enhanced resistance to BXW disease compared to non-transgenic control plants. This study suggests that the functionality of AtEFR is retained in banana with the potential of enhancing resistance to BXW disease under field conditions.