Researchers at North Carolina State University have found a specific gene in corn that appears to be associated with resistance to three important plant leaf diseases.
In a paper published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, NC State plant pathologists and crop scientists pinpoint the gene glutathione S-transferase that seems to confer resistance to Southern leaf blight, gray leaf spot and Northern leaf blight, a trio of diseases that cripple corn plants worldwide.
Finding out more about the mechanisms behind complex traits like disease resistance can potentially help plant breeders build the best traits into tomorrow's corn plants, says paper co-author Dr. Peter Balint-Kurti, a research plant pathologist and geneticist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agriculture Research Service (USDA-ARS) who works in NC State's plant pathology and crop science departments.
The NC State researchers joined lead author Dr. Randy Wisser, an assistant professor at the University of Delaware, and other researchers from the University of Delaware, Cornell University and Kansas State University in examining 300 diverse maize varieties from across the globe which are, on average, as different from one another as humans are from chimpanzees. Using these diverse varieties of corn allowed the researchers to zero in on the regions of the genome responsible for conferring resistance to the three diseases and thus to varieties that are very resistant to disease.
"We tested the lines for resistance to these three diseases and found that if a line is resistant to one disease, chances are it's also resistant to the other two," Balint-Kurti says.
The researchers then delved into the question of why this multiple resistance occurs.
"One hypothesis was that if a corn variety has resistance genes for one disease, it is likely to also have resistance genes for the others," Balin
|Contact: Mick Kulikowski|
North Carolina State University