Anti-fungus gene discovered

As explained in the press release “Gene guards grain-producing grasses so people and animals can eat“, USDA  Agricultural Research Service (ARS) researchers at Purdue (pictured at left) have isolated the gene that confers fungus resistance to grasses. The gene produces an “enzyme that disarmed the fungus’ disease-causing toxin. The detoxification isolated the infection at the site where the fungus invaded.”
Previously known pathogen defense systems in plants depend on recognition of the pathogen, followed by localized cell death to isolate it, so this finding will lead to much research on how plants defend themselves. In my opinion, there is likely a whole family of toxin disarming enzymes. Once more genes are identified, it will be relatively easy to produce lines of important grasses (rice, maize, wheat, etc) that are resistant to many types of fungi. This can be done through either breeding or biotechnology – resulting in higher yields, reduction in human and animal sickness from fungal toxins, and reduction in fungicide use.
The abstract of “A guardian of grasses: Specific origin and conservation of a unique disease-resistance gene in the grass lineage” can be found at PubMed.

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