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Crop Biotech Update

Barley Defense System Against Powdery Mildew

July 29, 2011

Powdery mildew has been an all time fungal disease problem in cereal grains that lead to huge yield losses worldwide. Researchers at the Technischen Universität München (TUM) in Germany led by Ralph Hückelhoven, Chair of Phytopathology found that a gene coding for a protein RACB in barley allows the invading powdery mildew to get to the plant cell and infect. The protein expands the surface of the plant cell membranes making it easier for the powdery mildew to push its haustoria to take control of the plant.

However, another protein in barley acts on the RACB disallowing fungal control in the plant. The protein MAGAP1 was discovered to be a part of most of the plant cell's cytoskeleton and network of protein fiber that strengthens plant cell walls. The protein moves to the cell surface membrane during the fungal attack and switches off the RACB's susceptibility factor, blocking the fungal entrance. The research published in the journal Plant Cell is hoped "to give a better understanding of the cause of diseases in the mid-term, to find innovative approaches to maintaining the health of crops and grains by enhancing their immunity," said Hückelhoven.

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