Washington, May 9 : Scientists at the University of Amsterdam have shown how tomatoes can be protected from wilting by making use of the plants' innate immune system.
Farmers and other agriculturalists are continuously battling the ability of plant pathogens to co-evolve alongside their host's immune system.
In agriculture, the most environmentally friendly way to combat the evolutionary change in plant diseases is to make use of the innate immune system of plants.
They can cross into targeted plant varieties certain polymorphic resistance genes that occur in related plants, thereby naturally boosting the plant's immune system.
The new study led by Dr. Martijn Rep investigated the molecular basis of this previously established concept of crossing in resistance genes.
The researchers focussed their study over fungal pathogen, Fusarium oxysporum and examined the interaction between the pathogen and the tomato plant in which the fungus causes Fusarium wilt disease.
The findings revealed that a small protein secreted by some strains of the fungus causes it to overcome two of the tomato's disease resistance genes.
However, a third resistance gene was shown to specifically target this suppressor protein, rendering the plant fully immune to any fungal strain that produces the protein.
Thus, with the right set of resistance genes, tomatoes can beat the fungus despite the latter's "molecular tricks."
"This molecular analysis has revealed a hitherto unpredicted strategy for durable disease control based on resistance gene combinations," said the authors.
The study is published in open-access journal PLoS Pathogens.