Crop Biotech Update

Protein as 'Master Regulator' Controls Flowering, Disease Resistance in Plants

February 5, 2014

A study at Purdue University led by botany and plant pathology Professor Tesfaye Mengiste has identified the protein MED18 that controls a variety of important plant processes, including flowering time, resistance to fungal diseases, and response to environmental stress factors. Mengiste said that understanding and manipulating MED18 could lead to improved resistance to necrotrophic fungal diseases in plants.

Necrotrophs are fungi that infect and kill plant cells to take their nutrients. Examples include northern leaf blight, ear rot and gray mold, which cause great economic loss of ornamental plants and vegetables than any other disease. When they attack, they stimulate two plant genes that make plants more susceptible to infection. But MED18 works with other proteins to "turn off" those target genes, contributing to disease resistance in an indirect yet important way. MED18 also helps activate a gene that bolsters a plant's defense against wounding and infection by necrotrophs. "This provides a new hope for resisting fungal infections because MED18 functions differently than more classical defense tactics," Mengiste said.

For more details about this research, read the news release available at http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2014/Q1/master-regulator-protein-controls-flowering,-disease-resistance-in-plants.html.