Molecular Genetics of the Fungal Pathogenesis Research Group at the University of Córdoba (UCO) has identified a new strategy to prevent fungal infections affecting more than 150 crops. Scientific study uses genetic manipulation techniques to reduce the virulence of ‘Fusarium oxysporum’, one of the most important pathogens in the world causing million-dollar losses in agriculture.
The university body indicated this in a note in which it detailed that tomato, banana, cabbage, melon, pumpkin or cucumber are some of the 150 crops of commercial interest that are victims of ‘Fusarium oxysporum’, It is one of the most important pathogens in the world due to its ability to cause millions of dollars in damage and attack a wide variety of plants.
Although it may not move in the soil for more than 30 years, upon locating the roots of a host plant it migrates to them, colonizing the vascular system and causing crops to wilt.
The use of fungicides, crop rotation or the development of resistant varieties are some of the agricultural practices that have proved insufficient to control it due to its high adaptability.
Now, molecular geneticists from the Fungal Pathogenesis Research Group at the University of Córdoba have managed to reduce the pathogen’s virulence by developing a new strategy: genetically altering a cellular pathway, making it ‘trust’ that it has the ability to do what it doesn’t need. The essential resource is to infect.
“For decades it has been hypothesized that nutrient starvation is a signal of infection activation,” explained researcher Manuel Sanchez, one of the study’s authors. Starting from this premise, the research eliminated a gene from the fungus, which codes for a protein called Tsc2. By suppressing this protein, according to the results of the work, it is possible to permanently activate a cellular pathway that is naturally triggered when the pathogen has the necessary nutrients.
“It’s like telling the fungus that it doesn’t need the resources, creating an illusion,” the researcher stressed. Despite the fact that the microorganism is in an environment in which it must initiate its infection mechanism, it receives a set of signals indicating that it has the nutrients it needs to survive without needing to infect. In short, it’s about playing, genetically, with your appetite, a “little chemical cheat.”
According to the results of work published in the scientific journal ‘Molecular Plant Pathology’ and carried out through infection tests in tomato plants, this genetically modified strain of ‘Fusarium oxysporum’ reduces its ability to penetrate and adhere to the root. gives, thus it gets depleted. The fierceness of it.
In this way, the work, in which researcher Gasabale Yaneth Navarro Velasco and researcher Antonio Di Pietro have also participated, puts a medium- and long-term objective on the table: developing an antifungal strategy that seeks to replicate this response outside the laboratory.