Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Newly identified gene may halt fuzzy, moldy fruit


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.

Purdue researcher Tesfaye Mengiste has identified the gene responsible for causing a fuzzy, gray mold that attacks fruits, such as strawberries and tomatoes. Mengiste, an assistant professor in the botany and plant pathology department, says gray mold disease destroys about 25 percent of the tomato and strawberry crop during some seasons. (Purdue University photo by Tom Campbell)

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 environmental 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.

In learning how to prevent necrotrophic pathogens, the researchers face a problem because biotropic pathogens also attack plants. These are pathogens that feed on live cells. Some plants actually kill their own cells at the site where a biotrophic pathogen is trying to invade in an effort to combat the threat.

"The methods that work to protect against biotrophic pathogens may actually promote necrotrophic pathogens," Mengiste said.

But he said he believes understanding the molecular workings of plants’ natural methods of fighting off disease is the best way to overcome pathogens.

The BOS1gene appears to control other genes and seems to provide resistance to several types of stresses. In other words, it controls a number of different genes or proteins in a molecular pathway that determines whether a plant overcomes adversity.

"In terms of biotechnology and improvements of both agricultural and horticultural plants through molecular approaches, it’s important that this gene is a regulatory protein because it means you can just alter it so there is more or less of it. An alteration of the gene then can control multiple genes further down the pathway," he said.

"This way we could increase yield and quality of some plants depending on the conditions and/or diseases that may affect them."

Writer: Susan A. Steeves, (765) 496-7481,

Source: Tesfaye Mengiste, (765) 494-0599,

Susan A. Steeves | Purdue News
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'
16.03.2018 | Emory Health Sciences

nachricht Scientists map the portal to the cell's nucleus
16.03.2018 | Rockefeller University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>