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Newly identified gene may halt fuzzy, moldy fruit

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - An insidious fuzzy gray mold that often coats refrigerated strawberries and many other plants during growing and storage may be prevented by a gene identified by a Purdue University researcher.

The mold is caused by a fungus, Botrytis cinerea, that often enters plant tissue through wounded or dead areas such as wilted petals, bruised fruit or at the site of pruning. In the November issue of the journal The Plant Cell, Purdue plant molecular biologist Tesfaye Mengiste and his colleagues at Syngenta Biotechnology Inc. report that the gene, called BOS1, is the first protein identified that regulates plant response to both biological and non-biological stresses.

"Botrytis affects many important crops in the field, in the greenhouse and in post-harvest situations," said Mengiste, an assistant professor in the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology. "It attacks flowers, fruits, vegetables, bulbs, leaves and stems. It has a tremendous capacity to inflict disease and eventually cause loss of quality and yield."

The scientists found the gene by sorting through mutations of the common laboratory research plant Arabidopsis. By studying altered plants that were highly susceptible to Botrytis, the researchers pinpointed the resistance gene, BOS1.

Once Mengiste and his team found the gene, they were able to show that it does more than restrict the growth of the pathogen. BOS1also protects the plant from stresses, such as drought and soil salinity. These stresses are called abiotic stresses. Pathogens and pests create biotic stresses.

Gray mold disease destroys about 10 percent of the grape crop annually and about 25 percent to 30 percent of tomato and strawberry crops in some seasons, experts report. It also infects many varieties of flowers including petunias, geraniums and chrysanthemums.

"The major control for most of these pathogens now is application of fungicides," Mengiste said." But there are environ
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Contact: Susan A. Steeves
ssteeves@purdue.edu
765-496-7481
Purdue University
24-Oct-2003


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