Unlocking the genetic secrets of wheat

March 4, 2014 by Lea Kivivali

Scientists at Swinburne University of Technology have discovered how wheat seedlings defend themselves against bacteria, opening the door for food and health applications.

Researchers in the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Technology have been exploring specific genes in and their resistance to bacteria and fungi.

"Wheat is the staple food of 35 per cent of the world's population and the third largest cereal crop after maize and rice," Swinburne molecular biologist Professor Mrinal Bhave said.

"Finding how genes control grain quality can help us develop more robust wheat crops."

Puroindoline a and puroindoline b (Pina and Pinb) determine grain hardness. Peptides – short chains of protein building blocks – derived from these genes are known for their antimicrobial properties and are implanted in various crops.

How these peptides defend wheat seedlings from diseases was not known.

Swinburne PhD student Rebecca Alfred, under the guidance of Professor Bhave and microbiologist Professor Enzo Palombo, designed artificial peptides that mimic the ones found in grains and tested them against various bacteria, fungi and .

She found that the peptides were aggressive towards a range of bacteria and fungi, but left mammalian cells unharmed, so could be used in any area that aims to reduce microbial contamination, such as food safety, hygiene and surface decontamination.

The peptides also tolerate high heat and can be used as preservatives in applications, such as milk or orange juice.

The team is now modifying these and testing them against more and fungi.

Explore further: Surgical Implants Coated with One of "Nature's Antibiotics" Could Prevent Infection

Related Stories

Bacteria pitted against fungi to protect wheat and barley

January 10, 2013

(Phys.org)—Soil-dwelling bacteria that depend on wheat and barley roots for their "room and board" could soon prove themselves helpful to the plants in return. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists in Pullman, ...

Why crop rotation works

July 18, 2013

Crop rotation has been used since Roman times to improve plant nutrition and to control the spread of disease. A new study to be published in Nature's 'The ISME Journal' reveals the profound effect it has on enriching soil ...

New test targets salmonella

January 22, 2014

(Phys.org) —An array of tiny diving boards can perform the Olympian feat of identifying many strains of salmonella at once.

Recommended for you

Hairs, feathers and scales have a lot in common

June 24, 2016

The potential evolutionary link between hairs in mammals, feathers in birds and scales in reptiles has been debated for decades. Today, researchers of the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and the SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics, ...

Insects were already using camouflage 100 million years ago

June 24, 2016

Those who go to a masked ball consciously slip into a different role, in order to avoid being recognized so quickly. Insects were already doing something very similar in the Cretaceous: They cloaked themselves in pieces of ...

Molecular scissors help evolutionary investigation

June 24, 2016

Scientists at KIT (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology) detected an important mechanism in the evolution of plant genomes: Using Arabidopsis thaliana as a model organism, they studied the formation of tandem repeat DNA sequences ...

Decoding the rubber tree genome

June 24, 2016

Researchers at the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science (CSRS) in Japan along with collaborators at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) have succeeded in decoding the genome sequence for Hevea brasiliensis, the natural ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.