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Historical and scientific evidence for the origin and cultural importance to Australia’s first-nations peoples of the laboratory accession of Nicotiana benthamiana, a model for plant virology

Wylie, S.ORCID: 0000-0002-5639-7460 and Li, H. (2022) Historical and scientific evidence for the origin and cultural importance to Australia’s first-nations peoples of the laboratory accession of Nicotiana benthamiana, a model for plant virology. Viruses, 14 (4). Article 771.

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Abstract

Nicotiana benthamiana is an indigenous plant species distributed across northern Australia. The laboratory accession (LAB) of N. benthamiana has become widely adopted as a model host for plant viruses, and it is distinct from other accessions morphologically, physiologically, and by having an attenuation-of-function mutation in the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase 1 (NbRdr1) gene, referred to as NbRdr1m. Recent historical evidence suggested LAB was derived from a 1936 collection by John Cleland at The Granites of the Northern Territory, although no scientific evidence was provided. We provide scientific evidence and further historical evidence supporting the origin of LAB as The Granites. Analysis of a herbarium specimen of N. benthamiana collected by Cleland in 1936 revealed that The Granites population contains plants heterozygous for the NbRdr1 locus, having both the functional NbRdr1 and the mutant NbRdr1m alleles. N. benthamiana was an important cultural asset actively utilised as the narcotic Pituri (chewing tobacco) by the Warlpiri Aboriginal people at the site, who prevented women of child-bearing age from consuming it. We propose that Aboriginal people selected some of the unique traits of LAB that have subsequently facilitated its adoption as a model plant, such as lack of seed dormancy, fast maturity, low nornicotine content, and gracility.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Western Australian State Agricultural Biotechnology Centre
Publisher: MDPI
Copyright: © 2022 by the authors
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/64559
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