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Crop Biotech Update

New Gene in Corn Confers Resistance to Multiple Diseases

July 26, 2017

North Carolina State University scientists discovered a gene in corn that could be linked to resistance to different plant leaf diseases. The paper on the study is published in Nature Genetics.

The researchers found the gene caffeoyl-CoA O-methyltransferase which seems to confer partial resistance to Southern leaf blight and gray leaf spot, and possibly Northern leaf blight, which are three major diseases that affect corn plants globally.

Discovering the mechanisms involved in disease resistance will help plant breeders develop important traits in future varieties of corn plants, said Peter Balint-Kurti, one of the authors of the study from USDA-Agriculture Research Service. "There were hundreds of genes in this region and identifying the specific genes affecting disease resistance was a challenge," Balint-Kurti said. "It's like looking for a particular restaurant in a city – without Google to assist you."

The researchers used fine mapping which led them to a small segment of the corn DNA with just four genes. Then they performed more tests to narrow those four gene down to one. The gene they found is also likely to be involved in lignin production, which may indicate that more lignin production means more robust disease resistance in plants.

Read more from NCSU.