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Fighting a Fungus That Thrives on Tomatoes

Scientists find disease-resistant gene wards off fusarium wilt on leaves

FRIDAY, May 9 (HealthDay News) -- A molecular-based approach to helping tomatoes fight a fungus that causes wilt has been identified by Dutch scientists.

In agriculture, there's an ongoing battle against the ability of plant pathogens to co-evolve along with their host plant's immune system, according to background information in the study. One way to increase protection is through disease resistance genes that strengthen a plant's immune system.

In this study, the researchers looked at tomatoes and the fungal pathogen Fusarium oxysporum, which causes fusarium wilt disease.

The University of Amsterdam team found that a suppressor protein secreted by some strains of the fungus enables it to overcome two of the tomato plant's disease resistance genes. However, a third resistance gene specifically targets the suppressor protein, making the plant fully resistant to any fungal strain that produces the protein.

This means that with the right set of resistance genes, tomato plants can defeat the fungus.

"This molecular analysis has revealed a hitherto unpredicted strategy for durable disease control based on resistance combinations," according to a news release about the study, published Friday in the journal PLoS Pathogens.

More information

Ohio State University has more about fusarium wilt.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Public Library of Science, news release, May 8, 2008

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