VIRUSES plaguing crops may soon
meet their nemesis in what may be
described as kamikaze genes residing
in carnations. Martin Hartley of the
University of Warwick has inserted
into the tobacco plant a suicide gene
taken from carnations to test its efficacy (New Scientist, Vol 141, No. 1994).
Hartley believes that if the suicide gene protects the tobacco plant against a virus, it may even come to the rescue of crops like tomato and potato.
The gene produces a com-pound that is harmless in plant cells until the cell is invaded by a virus. The virus sets off certain biochemical changes in the cell that turn the compound into a poison, killing both the infected cell and the unsuspecting virus.
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