Researchers have deciphered the workings of a cytolytic toxin, which is produced by some of the world’s most devastating crop diseases. The Cytolysin is manufactured by pathogens such as bacteria and fungi and can wipe out entire harvests if chemical protection is not used.
A team of international researchers headed by scientists from the University of Tübingen has deciphered the workings of a cytolytic toxin, which is produced by some of the world's most devastating crop diseases. The Cytolysin is manufactured by pathogens such as bacteria and fungi and can wipe out entire harvests if chemical protection is not used. The study -- by researchers from Tübingen and their partner institutions in Berkeley, Bordeaux, Ljubljana, Liége, and Wako in Japan, as well as Göttingen in Germany -- may lead to ways of better protecting crops from such pathogens in the future. The study has been published in the latest edition of Science.
Phytophthora infestans is not the only pathogen to use this tactic, Albert explains. So does Pectobacterium carotovorum, which primarily attacks roots; it is also the preferred mode of attack by the Botrytis fungus, which ruins fruit and vegetable crops. What was not understood until now was why these Cytolysins severely damage some plant species while not affecting others. "For example, cells of all kinds of cereals remain undestroyed by the toxin," says Albert, "Pathogens such as the potato blight therefore do not harm cereals."
Another prospect arising from the study, Nürnberger said, was the development of new kinds of biological plant-protective chemicals. He says it is conceivable that special sugar molecules could be used to block the Cytolysin toxin, preventing it from docking onto vulnerable plant cells. That could enable effective protection from attack by a range of deadly plant diseases, Nürnberger says.