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Protein Linked with Wheat Infection Identified

Dr. Sangeeta Soi
Dr. Sangeeta Soi

Indian researchers have figured out how fungus Tilletia indica, which causes the Karnal Bunt disease in wheat, infects the crop. This may help them find a possible solution to the problem Karnal Bunt, an infection that reduces yield and quality of grains as they start giving off foul fishy odour and taste.

Research carried by researchers at GB Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, Pantnagar and Rani Lakshmi Bai Central Agriculture University, Jhansi has identified various proteins in the genetic make-up of the fungus which is responsible for damaging crops. 

The disease called Karnal Bunt was first recorded in 1931 in Karnal after which it is named. As a result of its infection, the plant starts giving off foul smell and taste. Thus the wheat is not suitable for consumption. Other than India the disease is also prevalent in countries like the United States, Mexico, South Africa, Nepal, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Fungicides are used to control the infection but are not that effective. 

The reason behind the disease needs to be identified in order to know the whole mechanism and eradicate it completely. After research, it has been found that 44 proteins are involved in the development of the disease. These proteins play roles such as suppression of host defence responses, degradation of the plant cell wall, adhesion of pathogen to host tissues and detoxification of host generated reactive oxygen species. 

Among all proteins, one of the proteins identified is - malate dehydrogenase which helps produce oxaloacetate, a precursor of oxalic acid and a key element in phytopathogenic fungi like Tilletia indica that makes them cause diseases. 

Through these findings, a molecular insight about the important fungal pathogen has been provided that could help in the development of effective disease management strategies of plant disease surveillance through molecular diagnostics and pathogen indexing program through molecular pathotyping. 

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