North Carolina State University scientists discovered a gene in corn that
could be linked to resistance to different plant leaf diseases. The paper on
the study is published in Nature Genetics.
The researchers found the gene caffeoyl-CoA O-methyltransferase which seems
to confer partial resistance to Southern leaf blight and gray leaf spot, and
possibly Northern leaf blight, which are three major diseases that affect
corn plants globally.
Discovering the mechanisms involved in disease resistance will help plant
breeders develop important traits in future varieties of corn plants, said
Peter Balint-Kurti, one of the authors of the study from USDA-Agriculture
Research Service. "There were hundreds of genes in this region and
identifying the specific genes affecting disease resistance was a
challenge," Balint-Kurti said. "It's like looking for a particular
restaurant in a city - without Google to assist you."
The researchers used fine mapping which led them to a small segment of the
corn DNA with just four genes. Then they performed more tests to narrow
those four gene down to one. The gene they found is also likely to be
involved in lignin production, which may indicate that more lignin
production means more robust disease resistance in plants.