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 A Map of the Cell’s Power Station
18.08.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht On the way to developing a new active ingredient against chronic infections
21.08.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für Infektionsforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Nagoya physicists resolve long-standing mystery of structure-less transition

21.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

Chronic stress induces fatal organ dysfunctions via a new neural circuit

21.08.2017 | Health and Medicine

Scientists from the MSU studied new liquid-crystalline photochrom

21.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>