Tomato gene may fend banana against formidable fungus

Apr 13, 2010 by Albert Sikkema

(PhysOrg.com) -- Proteins from the fungus Cladosporium fulvum, which causes leaf blight in tomato plants, are very similar to the proteins of the fungus Mycosphaerella fijiensis, which causes the much-feared black Sigatoka disease in the banana. This paves the way for using genetic modification to build resistance into the banana via the tomato, report Wageningen phytopathologists in PNAS this week.

Researchers have hitherto thought that the arms race between plant diseases and their hosts - pathogen attacks plant, plant develops resistance, pathogen overpowers resistance, etc. - is species specific. However, Ioannis Stergiopoulos, postdoctoral researcher in Pierre de Wit's research team and first author of the article, has now shown that different fungal diseases in various plants have the same . 'That is remarkable', says co-author Harrold van den Burg. 'The fungal diseases in , grain crops and banana plants are very closely related, although the plants have had their own development history for millions of years.'

Not only do the fungi have a common base from which they infect various plants, Van den Burg says that these plants may also have a common resistance gene which recognizes these fungal pathogens and prevents them from causing diseases.

Since the Cf can successfully protect the tomato against C. fulvum strains which produce a certain protein, the researchers postulate that this gene also gives good protection against M. fijiensis strains which produce a similar protein. They would test their theory by building this tomato Cf gene into the banana to see whether the latter becomes resistant against the black Sigatoka . 'We are running these tests currently', says Van den Burg. 'We are working with a transgenic crop since a tomato gene has been introduced into the banana.'

Currently, there is no known resistance against black Sigatoka in Cavendish bananas, the commonly consumed banana variety. Therefore, banana plantations use fungicides fifty to seventy times annually. Banana is a monoculture and a very vulnerable crop.

The article in PNAS is the result of a joint effort by Pierre de Wit, a specialist in Cladosporium fulvum, the causal agent of the tomato leaf mould disease, and Gert Kema of Plant Research International, specialist in the Mycosphaerella fungus. In the past few years both research teams have joined forces to find novel strategies to protect crop plants against devastating diseases like the black Sigatoka of banana.

Explore further: Iberian pig genome remains unchanged after five centuries

Provided by Wageningen University

3 /5 (2 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

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 ...

New defenses deployed against plant diseases

Mar 14, 2010

An international team led by scientists at the Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, UK, have transferred broad spectrum resistance against some important plant diseases across different plant families. This breakthrough ...

Changing smell of plants announces fungus attack

Oct 20, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Tomato plants under attack from the Botrytis fungus give off an aromatic substance that can be measured in greenhouses. This is the result of research performed by Roel Jansen with which he ...

Prevent tomato late blight next growing season

Oct 23, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Across the northeast, home gardeners expecting the usual bumper crop of tomatoes this season were dismayed to find their plants affected by late blight, the same fungus that caused Ireland's potato famine ...

Recommended for you

Iberian pig genome remains unchanged after five centuries

2 hours ago

A team of Spanish researchers have obtained the first partial genome sequence of an ancient pig. Extracted from a sixteenth century pig found at the site of the Montsoriu Castle in Girona, the data obtained indicates that ...

New concepts based on advances in animal systematics

5 hours ago

The way in which most multicellular organisms have been classified has been the same for more than a century. Only recently have scientists developed the tools and knowledge to question the way we classify ...

New dawn for pasta wheat in Australia

8 hours ago

The University of Adelaide's durum breeding program today at the Hart Field Day will release a new durum wheat variety called DBA-Aurora which promises a step-change in potential durum production in southern Australia.

User comments : 0