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Crop Biotech Update

Genome Gives Hints about a Destructive Wheat Pathogen

June 17, 2011

Purdue plant pathologist Stephen Goodwin and colleagues found out through the genome mapping study of Mycosphaerella graminicola, one of the world's most destructive wheat pathogens, that it is "genetically built to evade detection before infecting its host." The fungus, which causes septoria tritici blotch, had fewer genes that code for production of enzymes used by fungi to penetrate and digest plant surfaces during infection.

"We're guessing that the low number of enzymes is to avoid detection by plant defenses," said Goodwin. He also mentioned that the fungus seems to lay dormant between plant cells, avoiding infection. Eventually, the fungus infects the plant particularly in the stomata and then removes vital nutrients and causing the disease.

With the sequenced genome of this top pathogen of wheat in Europe, the scientists aims to identify which genes cause toxicity in wheat the define ways to eliminate that toxicity or improve wheat's defenses against the fungus.

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