Genetically engineered potatoes and tobacco plants would now save themselves from four major fungal diseases. Matteo Lorito of the Federico II University of Naples and his colleagues have equipped these plants with a gene which helps make a powerful anti-fungal endochiti-nase. This enzyme digests fungal cell walls and other structures made from the tough biopolymer chitin. The gene itself conies from the fungus Trichoderma harzianum, a parasite which attacks other fungi. It was found that about 10 per cent of the altered plants proved resistant to all four diseases, a trait that was inherited by subsequent genera-tions. According to Lorito, this is the first time a gene of fungal origin has been used successfully to fortify plants against fungal diseases. Earlier, botanists have loaded plants with plant genes which make anti-fungal enzymes, but these provide only weak protection and usually only work against one fungal species. T harzianum overcomes these limi-tations as it makes a powerful chitin-digesting enzyme that is lethal to several strains of fungi (New Scientist, Vol 159, No 2142).
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.