Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Hitting back at 'wiretapping' parasite

25.07.2012
Dodder vines are parasitic plants that suck water, nutrients and information from other plants as they spread over them.
Plant biologists at the University of California, Davis, have now shown that they can make plants resistant to dodder by attacking the junctions where the parasite taps into the host.

"We think that this will translate into other parasitic plants," said Neelima Sinha, professor of plant biology at UC Davis, who led the project. The work was published online July 20 by the journal Plant Cell.

Sinha's lab uses dodder as a model for more serious parasites such as Striga, which attacks the roots of maize, sorghum and other African crops.

In earlier work, Sinha and colleagues found that when dodder taps into a host plant, it takes up RNA molecules that can act as chemical messengers in the host along with water, sugars and other nutrients. These circulating RNA molecules act as messengers inside plants, for example coordinating growth and flowering.

The researchers wondered if they could exploit this to attack the parasite. It is possible to switch off a gene with a short piece of RNA with which it pairs. This technique is called RNA interference or RNA silencing, and it won the Nobel Prize in medicine in 2006.

To use RNA interference against dodder, the team looked for genes that could affect the parasite but not the host.

"The answer turned out to be genes I've worked on all my career," Sinha said, describing a group of genes that control the activity of other genes involved in shoot and root growth.

These genes are active in both the host plant meristem (an area of active growth in roots and shoots) and in the haustoria, the junctions where the parasite penetrates the host, Sinha said. So the researchers identified regions that were unique to the parasite, and used them to make a short DNA construct. Tobacco plants carrying this construct make short pieces of RNA that match the genes of the parasite, but not the host.

Dodder did not grow as well on the engineered plants as on control plants, Sinha said. At the same time, the dodder showed high levels of stress signals and flowered early -- a reaction to stress.

The work was initiated by Steven Runo and spearheaded by Amos Alakonya, two African graduate students who have now returned to Kenyatta University in Kenya, Sinha said. They hope to develop the technique to control Striga in African maize crops.

"This is the proof of concept, and now we can take it into the field," she said.

Other authors on the paper are: at UC Davis, postdoctoral researchers Ravi Kumar, Seisuke Kimura, Helena M. Garces, Julie Kang, Rakefet David-Schwartz; graduate students Daniel Koenig, Brad Townsley, and undergraduate student Andrea Yanez; and Jesse Machuka at Kenyatta University.

The work was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and the National Science Foundation.
About UC Davis

For more than 100 years, UC Davis has engaged in teaching, research and public service that matter to California and transform the world. Located close to the state capital, UC Davis has more than 32,000 students, more than 2,500 faculty and more than 21,000 staff, an annual research budget that exceeds $684 million, a comprehensive health system and 13 specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and more than 100 undergraduate majors in four colleges — Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Biological Sciences, Engineering, and Letters and Science. It also houses six professional schools — Education, Law, Management, Medicine, Veterinary Medicine and the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing.
Media contact(s):
Neelima Sinha, Plant Biology, (530) 754-8441, nrsinha@ucdavis.edu
Andy Fell, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-4533, ahfell@ucdavis.edu

Andy Fell | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ucdavis.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht The birth of a new protein
20.10.2017 | University of Arizona

nachricht Building New Moss Factories
20.10.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Terahertz spectroscopy goes nano

20.10.2017 | Information Technology

Strange but true: Turning a material upside down can sometimes make it softer

20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

NRL clarifies valley polarization for electronic and optoelectronic technologies

20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>