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‘Master regulator’ protein controls flowering, disease resistance in plants

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Posted February 7, 2014

The next time you stop and smell the roses, thank MED18. The protein MED18 controls many important plant processes, including when a plant blossoms, how it resists key fungal diseases, and how it responds to environmental stress factors, a Purdue University study shows.

“MED18 is like a master regulator,” said Tesfaye Mengiste, professor of botany and plant pathology and the study’s lead researcher. “The versatility of its functions is surprising.”

Understanding and manipulating MED18 could lead to improved resistance to necrotrophic fungal diseases in plants, Mengiste said.

Necrotrophs are fungi that infect and kill plant cells to take their nutrients, causing diseases that are difficult and costly to manage. Examples include northern leaf blight, ear rot and gray mold, which is estimated to cause a greater economic loss of ornamental plants and vegetables than any other disease.

When necrotrophs attack, they stimulate an increase in the expression of two plant genes that render a plant more susceptible to infection. But MED18 works with other proteins to “turn off” those target genes, contributing to disease resistance in an indirect yet important way. MED18 also helps activate a gene that bolsters a plant’s defense against wounding and infection by necrotrophs.

Mengiste and his fellow researchers found that the presence of MED18 limited disease symptoms and fungal growth in Arabidopsis plants infected with gray mold fungus.

Read more at: Phys.org

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