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Newly identified gene may halt fuzzy, moldy fruit

mental pollution and health concerns connected with their use. Also, Botrytis builds up genetic resistance to fungicides that are used frequently.

"The most cost-effective and environmentally sound approach to preventing this disease is through genetic resistance. If we can use the same gene we found in Arabidopsis in other plants that are hosts of Botrytis, then BOS1 can be utilized to prevent this fungus and other similar plant diseases."

Cool, humid weather fosters the fungus. That's why the mold often appears on strawberries and raspberries stored in your refrigerator's fruit and vegetable drawer.

Because spores spread Botrytis, one infected piece of fruit or plant will infect nearby plants. The fungus can start in healthy plant tissue but most often begins in dead leaves or petals that have fallen to the ground. Botrytis can live through the winter in a dormant state and then attack new growth in the spring.

Because of the pathogen's ability to spread easily and kill a whole plant, researchers tested single mutant Arabidopsis leaves to learn the susceptibility. The scientists inoculated a single leaf with a mixture containing Botrytis spores and then removed the leaves from the plant so individual plants would survive for further testing. This allowed them to determine which gene halted the fungus' invasion.

"We want to understand how plants resist Botrytis, what biological events occur when plants perceive that this fungus or other necrotrophic pathogens are present," Mengiste said.

Botrytis is a necrotrophic pathogen, meaning it obtains nutrients from dead cells. That is why the fungus kills the plant cell or invades through injured or dead parts of plants. Once it enters dead areas, it begins killing other parts of the plant, resulting in plant decay.

"If we can identify these genes, then they can be used to expedite plant breeding for resistance to Botrytis and other similar diseases," Mengiste said.
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Contact: Susan A. Steeves
ssteeves@purdue.edu
765-496-7481
Purdue University
24-Oct-2003


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