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Crop Biotech Update

International Team Finds a Way to Stop Rice Blast Spread

March 28, 2018

An international team of experts led by the University of Exeter used chemical genetic inhibition of a protein in rice blast and successfully stopped it from spreading in a rice leaf. The results are published in Science.

Rice blast destroys up to 30 percent of the world's rice crop annually. The fungus has a powerful mechanism of infecting a rice plant. When it enters into a rice cell, the plasma membrane stays intact and the cells remain viable, then the fungus moves to nearby cells through the plant's intercellular channels called plasmodesmata.

The researchers used a chemical genetic approach to selectively inhibit a single protein (Pmk1) in the blast fungus. When Pmk1 is inhibited, the fungus gets trapped within a rice cell. Pmk1 is responsible for the expression of genes involved in suppression of host immunity. It also controls the fungus' hyphal constriction, which allows transfer into new host cells.

Read more from the University of Exeter.