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Researchers Identify New Enzyme that Infects Plants- Paving the Way for Potential Disease Prevention

Shivam Dwivedi
Shivam Dwivedi
Phytophthora infestans

Scientists have found an enzyme that plays a major role in the infection of plants and have demonstrate that disabling this enzyme can effectively prevent plant disease in its tracks.

This new research, published in Science, highlights that a family of enzymes found in a microorganism called Phytophthora Infestans. These enzymes empowers crop pathogens to deteriorate pectin, a key component of walls of plant cells, thereby enabling the pathogens to break through the plant's defence mechanism to infect the plant.

Is Phytophthora infestans a fungus?

Late Blight Disease in tomato is caused by the fungus Phytophthora infestans de Bary and constitutes one of the most spoiling diseases of tomato in the region. Generally this disease occurs during the wet cold periods wherever the crop is grown.


Symptoms on tomato fruit- Lesions are firm, large, irregular, brownish-green blotches, the lesion surface has a greasy rough appearance.

Research Findings:

Led by chemists and biologists from the University of York, the international team of researchers identified a new class of enzymes that attack pectin called LPMOs (Lytic Polysaccharide Monooxygenases). Team also highlighted that deactivating the gene that encodes this enzyme rendered the pathogen incapable of infecting the host.

P. Infestans is responsible for causing potato late blight, a spoiling plant disease that further led to widespread starvation in Europe and more than a million deaths in Ireland in the 1840s, in what became known as 'The Great Famine'. Plant Infection continues to cause billions of dollars' worth of damage to global crop production every year and continues to endanger world food security.

The discovery of this new gene could open up newer ways of protection of crops from this important group of pathogens.

Dr Federico Sabbadin, Lead Author on Report,  from the Biology Department's Centre for Novel Agricultural Products (CNAP), at the University of York said: "These new enzymes appear to be important in all plant pathogenic oomycetes, and this discovery opens the way for potentially powerful strategies in crop protection."

Professor Simon McQueen-Mason, also from CNAP, remarked that the work was "the result of interdisciplinary collaborations between biologists and chemists at York along with plant pathologists at the James Hutton Institute, and genomicists at CNRS, with invaluable molecular insights from Professor Neil Bruce (CNAP) and Professors Gideon Davies and Paul Walton in the Department of Chemistry at York."

This research is a part of a project known as 'New Enzymatic Virulence Factors in Phytophthora Infestans', running from 2021 to 2025, and is supported with a £1m grant from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

(Source: Science Daily)

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