Unlocking the genetic secrets of wheat

Mar 04, 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: New test targets salmonella

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New test targets salmonella

Jan 22, 2014

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

Bacteria pitted against fungi to protect wheat and barley

Jan 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 ...

Why crop rotation works

Jul 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 w ...

Recommended for you

The origin of the language of life

22 hours ago

The genetic code is the universal language of life. It describes how information is encoded in the genetic material and is the same for all organisms from simple bacteria to animals to humans. However, the ...

Quest to unravel mysteries of our gene network

Dec 18, 2014

There are roughly 27,000 genes in the human body, all but a relative few of them connected through an intricate and complex network that plays a dominant role in shaping our physiological structure and functions.

EU court clears stem cell patenting

Dec 18, 2014

A human egg used to produce stem cells but unable to develop into a viable embryo can be patented, the European Court of Justice ruled on Thursday.

User comments : 0

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.