Crop Biotech Update

To Fight World Hunger, Researchers Use Nuclear Methods to Study Pest Resistance in Corn

December 14, 2016

Using advanced nuclear methods, an international team of scientists led by Richard Ferrieri from the University of Missouri has determined the mechanisms that corn plants use to fight the western corn rootworm, a major pest threatening the growth of the vital food source. The western corn rootworm is a voracious pest, its larvae hatch in the soil and feed on the crop's root system.

The research team injected radioisotope tracers in healthy and rootworm-infested corn plants to trace essential nutrients and hormones as they moved through the plants. The research team followed auxin's biosynthesis and movement in both healthy and stressed plants and determine how it contributes to root growth. They also attached a radioactive tracer to the amino acid glutamine, which controls auxin chemistry, and observed the pathways the corn plants used to transport glutamine and how it influenced auxin biosynthesis.

The researchers found that auxin is tightly regulated at the root tissue level where rootworms are feeding. They also found  that auxin biosynthesis is vital to root regrowth and involves highly specific biochemical pathways that are influenced by the rootworm and triggered by glutamine metabolism.

For more details, read the news release at the University of Missouri News Bureau.