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Advance toward controlling fungus that caused Irish potato famine

Date:
November 17, 2010
Source:
American Chemical Society
Summary:
Scientists are reporting a key advance toward development of a way to combat the terrible plant diseases that caused the Irish potato famine and still inflict billions of dollars of damage to crops each year around the world.
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Potatoes and other crops may get protection against a devastating plant disease that caused the Irish potato famine.
Credit: iStockphoto/Libor Tomá?tík

Scientists are reporting a key advance toward development of a way to combat the terrible plant diseases that caused the Irish potato famine and still inflict billions of dollars of damage to crops each year around the world. Their study appears in ACS' journal Organic Letters.

Teck-Peng Loh and colleagues point out that the Phytophthora fungi cause extensive damage to food crops such as potatoes and soybeans as well as to ornamental plants like azaleas and rhododendrons. One species of the fungus caused the Irish potato famine in the mid 1840s. That disaster resulted in nearly one million deaths from starvation and forced millions more people to flee Ireland for the United States and other countries. Still difficult to control despite the use of modern pesticides, the fungus continues to cause $6 billion in damage to global potato crops annually. Scientists, however, have isolated a key hormone, alpha-1, that allows Phytophthora to reproduce. The hormone exists in several different forms, and a synthetic version of the most biologically active form could provide the basis for developing a way to control the fungus and reduce its threat, the scientists suggest.

They describe an advance toward this goal, the synthesis of a particularly active form of the mating hormone called (3R,7R,11R,15R)-hormone alpha-1. The scientists also showed that they could make relatively large quantities of the hormone. The advance could open the door to an effective method to fight this ancient scourge, they suggest.

The authors acknowledged funding from the Nanyang Technological University, Ministry of Education and Biomedical Research Council (A*STAR grant M47110006).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Chemical Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Shun-Yi Wang, Ping Song, Li-Yan Chan, Teck-Peng Loh. Total Synthesis ofPhytophthoraMating Hormone α1. Organic Letters, 2010; 12 (22): 5166 DOI: 10.1021/ol102177j

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American Chemical Society. "Advance toward controlling fungus that caused Irish potato famine." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 November 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101117121811.htm>.
American Chemical Society. (2010, November 17). Advance toward controlling fungus that caused Irish potato famine. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 27, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101117121811.htm
American Chemical Society. "Advance toward controlling fungus that caused Irish potato famine." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101117121811.htm (accessed April 27, 2015).

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