Login

GPC Members Login
If you have any problems or have forgotten your login please contact [email protected]


Targeting how fungi ‘taste’ wheat could be key to developing control

Exploring how a hazardous fungal pathogen ‘tastes’ its surroundings within a wheat plant to coordinate virulence could be the key to developing new control strategies, scientists believe.

Researchers at the University of Bath and Rothamsted Research have been examining how “fungal G-protein coupled receptors”, which are similar to taste receptors on our tongues, are involved in promoting Fusarium Head Blight (FHB) – a damaging and hazardous disease of wheat which is the number one floral disease in cereals globally.

Fusarium Head Blight targets the ear and grain of the wheat plants and is therefore a major problem for farmers of one of the world’s most important crops. The disease is economically costly, damaging wheat crops towards the end of the growing cycle, and contaminating the wheat grain with fungal toxins (mycotoxins) which are dangerous for humans and animals to eat.

In the UK we have outbreaks of FHB every few years, experiencing wheat crop losses of around 10% in 2012. In other parts of the world such as the USA, Brazil and China, the disease causes severe crop losses and mycotoxin contamination problems for farmers every harvest.

Currently there are no truly effective ways to control FHB, which is spread by airborne spores.

The research team, led by fungal biologist Dr Neil Brown from the University of Bath’s Department of Biology & Biochemistry, thinks that G-protein coupled receptors are a promising targets to develop new approaches to control fungal diseases, including the FHB causing pathogen Fusarium graminearum.

These fungal receptors ‘taste’ their environment and signal changes to the fungi cell, kicking off an appropriate biological response, including mating, mycotoxin production and virulence.

In a series of experiments the scientific team demonstrated that F. graminearum’s receptors are important in wheat infection. The team made a collection of fungal mutants lacking individual receptors. They went on to show that the absence of one type of receptor, specific to fungi, allowed the wheat plant to mount a stronger defence, which causes a traffic jam of invading filamentous fungal structures called hyphae and reducing the progression of infection.

The team also showed that the removal of this receptor meant that the virulence on wheat was reduced, because various fungal processes required for infection were disrupted and dysregulated.

The research is published in PLOS Pathogens.

Dr Brown said: “Fusarium Head Blight is the number one floral disease of cereals worldwide.

“G-protein coupled receptors have been studied extensively in humans, where around 40% of our pharmaceuticals target these human receptors, as they’re exposed on the cell surface, making them accessible to drugs, and they control important biological functions. Fungi have their own G-protein coupled receptors, but we know very little about them.

“Our results show that fungal receptors are important for Fusarium infection of wheat. By learning more about the structure and function of these fungal-specific receptors, and the compounds they detect, we may be able to develop new approaches to control FHB and other plant pathogens.”

Professor Kim Hammond-Kosack, from Rothamsted Research, said: “The options to control Fusarium floral infections in cereal crops are very limited at the moment. This is causing growers and processors in the food and feed industries a tremendous headache, and why Rothamsted has been looking to apply our considerable expertise in crop diseases to this problem. These results open up the possibility of devising novel ways to control FHB disease through either targeted drug development or by eliminating the signals these receptors perceive during a fungal attack.”

Read the paper: PLOS Pathogens

Article source: University of Bath

Image: Manfred Richter / Pixabay

News

Scientists transform tobacco info factory for high-value proteins

For thousands of years, plants have produced food for humans, but with genetic tweaks, they can also manufacture proteins like Ebola vaccines, antibodies to combat a range of conditions, and now, cellulase that is used in food processing and to break down crop waste to create biofuel. In Nature Plants, a team from Cornell University and the University of Illinois announced that crops can cheaply manufacture proteins inside their cellular power plants called chloroplasts—allowing the crops to be grown widely in fields rather than restrictive greenhouses—with no cost to yield.


Climate change could affect symbiotic relationships between microorganisms and trees

Some fungi and bacteria live in close association, or symbiosis, with tree roots in forest soil to obtain mutual benefits. The microorganisms help trees access water and nutrients from the atmosphere or soil, sequester carbon, and withstand the effects of climate change. In exchange, they receive carbohydrates, which are essential to their development and are produced by the trees during photosynthesis.


Aggressive, non-native wetland plants squelch species richness more than dominant natives do

Dominant, non-native plants reduce wetland biodiversity and abundance more than native plants do, researchers report in the journal Ecology Letters. Even native plants that dominate wetland landscapes play better with others, the team found.