Tomato stands firm in face of fungus

May 09, 2008

Scientists at the University of Amsterdam have discovered how to keep one’s tomatoes from wilting – the answer lies at the molecular level. The story of how the plant beat the pathogen, and what it means for combating other plant diseases, is published May 9th in the open-access journal PLoS Pathogens.

Farmers and fellow agriculturalists are continuously battling the ability of plant pathogens to co-evolve alongside their host’s immune system. In agriculture, the most environmentally friendly way to combat the evolutionary change in plant diseases is to make use of the innate immune system of plants. Growers can cross into targeted plant varieties certain polymorphic resistance genes that occur in related plants, thereby naturally boosting the plant’s immune system.

In this study, Dr. Martijn Rep and his team explored the molecular basis of this previously established concept of crossing in resistance genes. The authors considered the interaction between a fungal pathogen, Fusarium oxysporum, and the tomato plant in which the fungus causes Fusarium wilt disease.

The group found that a small protein secreted by some strains of the fungus causes it to overcome two of the tomato’s disease resistance genes. However, a third resistance gene was shown to specifically target this suppressor protein, rendering the plant fully immune to any fungal strain that produces the protein. Thus, with the right set of resistance genes, tomatoes can beat the fungus despite the latter’s “molecular tricks.”

“This molecular analysis has revealed a hitherto unpredicted strategy for durable disease control based on resistance gene combinations,” say the authors.

Citation: Houterman PM, Cornelissen BJC, Rep M (2008) Suppression of Plant Resistance Gene-Based Immunity by a Fungal Effector. PLoS Pathog 4(5): e1000061. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1000061

Source: Public Library of Science

Explore further: Myanmar captures rare white elephant in western jungles

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

How does space travel affect organ development?

Dec 10, 2014

The crew of the International Space Station will soon be joined by 180 mice from Berkeley Lab. Their mission: help scientists learn how space travel affects the immune system, organ development, and reproduction ...

Keeping pace with plant pathogens

Aug 16, 2013

In the battle between diseases and plants—constant, changing and centuries old—scientists and farmers usually arm themselves through classical breeding, crossing varieties in the hopes of eventually reaching ...

Recommended for you

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.