December 8, 2008

Genetic method found to kill gray mold

A team of U.S., French and Spanish scientists say they've identified the gene that enables gray mold to kill plant cells.

Brown University Professor David Cane and his international colleagues also found deletion of that single gene from gray mold's DNA shuts down its ability to produce toxins that kill cells in more than 200 species of garden and ornamental plants.

The fungus, Botrytis cinerea, can kill more than 200 agricultural and ornamental plant species, including staples such as tomatoes, strawberries, snap and lima beans, cabbage, lettuce and endive, peas, peppers, and potatoes. Gray mold envelops its target in a toxin that poisons the host plants' cells, eventually causing the plant to die.

Up to now the only way to eliminate the pathogen was to spray plants with fungicides, which can contaminate the surrounding environment.

Now Cane and his colleagues have determined how the fungus's toxin is made and how it might be disarmed naturally.

The study, led by French scientist Muriel Viaud and including Spanish scientist Isidro Collado, appears in the journal Chemical Biology.