In DepthPlant Diseases

Help for a wheat fungal disease comes from a surprising source

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Science  10 Apr 2020:
Vol. 368, Issue 6487, pp. 122
DOI: 10.1126/science.368.6487.122

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Summary

Wheat scab, also known as Fusarium head blight, can significantly dent harvests. And the toxins released by the fungus Fusarium graminearum remain in grain, which must either be discarded or blended with uninfected grain. Researchers have now found a protective gene in a wild relative of wheat. Called Fhb7, it encodes a toxin-destroying enzyme, the team reports online in Science this week. The gene originated in a benign fungus that lives inside wild grasses, then somehow slipped into their genome. Such symbiotic fungi can help their plant hosts defend against a destructive invader. The enzyme is likely to be broadly effective against related fungi. The study authors suggest fungal DNA could yield other potential resistance genes for plants. The hope is to identify other, similar genes and "stack" them to toughen up wheat and barley.

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