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Not luck of the draw exactly but it was a random mutation in a convenient host that led to the discovery of a gene responsible for a fungal disease that wrecks up to one fifth of the world’s cereal production, or hundreds of millions of tonnes of crops. Near identical genes are also present in the fungi that cause vegetables to rot, trees to die and people to scratch, itch or struggle to breathe.

Researchers were screening genes of the wheat pathogen, Zymoseptoria tritici, which causes Septoria leaf blotch, when they noticed one specimen not developing hyphae, or filaments, that are essential to enable the fungus to invade its host.

“We were trying to identify loss of virulence through random mutations of the genome, with one mutation per individual present in over 1000 specimens” recalls Jason Rudd, a molecular pathologist at Rothamsted Research. “Then noticed the failing hyphae in one of them and identified the affected gene with a mutation slap bang in the middle of it.”

The gene codes for a protein, a glycosyltransferase (ZtGT2), that enables the fungal hyphae to grow and spread across the surface of a plant, says Rudd, who led the research team from Rothamsted. Their findings are reported today in the journal, PLOS Pathogens.

 

For further details, please see the source article here.

Cambridge Global Challenges is a Strategic Research Initiative of the University of Cambridge that aims to enhance the contribution of its research towards addressing global challenges and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

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