Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New Genes Protect Trees From Insects, Disease

Date:
April 26, 2000
Source:
Michigan Technological University
Summary:
Researchers at Michigan Tech are transferring altered genes into fungi that facilitate the flow of nutrients through tree roots to help trees protect themselves against disease and insects.

Researchers at Michigan Tech are transferring altered genes into fungi that facilitate the flow of nutrients through tree roots to help trees protect themselves against disease and insects.

Related Articles


Using "doctored" genes to impart desired characteristics into fungi that live symbiotically with tree roots can ultimately help trees grow faster and live healthier lives, according to Project Leader Dr. Gopi Podila, a molecular biologist in Michigan Tech's Department of Biological Sciences.

"Ectomycorrhizal (on top of the root) fungi provide a major network in the soil for making nutrients available to tree root systems," explains Podila. " By breaking down minerals locked up by acidic soils caused by the decomposition of needles, leaves, and other forest litter, fungi facilitate the passage of those nutrients from the soil to the tree. The fungus, in turn, draws food from the tree, enhancing its own survival. Another benefit of this symbiotic relationship is that the fungus can grow wider and deeper into the soil--and this greatly increases the outreach of the tree in its search for essential minerals."

Podila says that normally when you try to put a fungus on a plant, the two try to kill one another, but fortunately this mutually beneficial relationship has evolved in nature over the course of millions of years. "One of the things we want to determine," he says, "is how they communicate with one another--how do they each let the other know that they are friendly." He says the process is a long one.

"It's almost like a courtship. The fungus gradually approaches the tree root system and this can take as long as three or four months. And even then, the fungus is 'turned on' only to specific host signals. The fungus prepares itself to form the association with the host plant by expressing specific symbiosis-related genes. These genes are turned on by the right plant signals, and this process is controlled by DNA sequences called 'promoters.' These promoters are responding to plant signals and determine the symbiosis-related expression of genes. If we can combine a specific gene with the right promoter, we can introduce a variety of genes into the fungus, where they will express their specific qualities to enhance the life of the tree." Podila says the fungus provides a protective "coating" around the tree's roots, protecting it from drought and attack by various microbial pathogens.

"Reforestation techniques use herbicides to prevent grass and weeds from covering up the reforested area and forming competition for tree seedlings," he says. "Insect pests, such as the white grub, which normally feed on grass roots, must then turn to tree roots for food. White grubs are voracious eaters that can completely chew away the roots of a young tree, leaving it unable to draw nutrients from the soil. We can prevent this from happening by altering the mycorrhizal fungus so it will produce insecticidal proteins that are unpalatable to the grubs, causing them to avoid the tree roots. The protein produced by the altered gene is biodegradable and completely harmless to humans." If these genes are put under the control of symbiosis-related gene promoters, then their expression will be limited to mycorrhizal roots and thus will not cause any unintended expression of these genes.

Podila says it is also possible to improve the ectomycorrhizal fungi to reduce the uptake of soluble metals by tree roots. He says this will be very useful in alleviating conditions caused by acid pollution and aluminum toxicity.

"The use of genetically-improved mycorrhizal fungi is a novel and feasible approach for increasing forest biomass," says Podila. "This system, when fully developed, also has the potential to be adapted to handle a variety of problems associated with plant health, and could lead to further research that will use mycorrhizal fungi to help the plant host in many beneficial physiological and ecological ways."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Michigan Technological University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Michigan Technological University. "New Genes Protect Trees From Insects, Disease." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 April 2000. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/04/000426075955.htm>.
Michigan Technological University. (2000, April 26). New Genes Protect Trees From Insects, Disease. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/04/000426075955.htm
Michigan Technological University. "New Genes Protect Trees From Insects, Disease." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/04/000426075955.htm (accessed December 21, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 19, 2014) Millions of monarch butterflies begin to descend onto Mexico as part of their annual migration south. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) The new year is coming and nothing will energize you more for 2015 than protein-filled foods. Fitness and nutrition expert John Basedow (@JohnBasedow) gives his favorite high protein foods that will help you build muscle, lose fat and have endless energy. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Newsy (Dec. 19, 2014) A new study suggests a certain type of bird was able to sense a tornado outbreak that moved through the U.S. a day before it hit. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins