Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Dodder vines: Hitting back at 'wiretapping' parasite

Date:
July 24, 2012
Source:
University of California - Davis
Summary:
Dodder vines are parasitic plants that suck water, nutrients and information from other plants as they spread over them. Plant biologists have now shown that they can make plants resistant to dodder by attacking the junctions where the parasite taps into the host.

Dodder vines are parasitic plants that suck water, nutrients and information from other plants as they spread over them. Plant biologists at the University of California, Davis, have now shown that they can make plants resistant to dodder by attacking the junctions where the parasite taps into the host.

"We think that this will translate into other parasitic plants," said Neelima Sinha, professor of plant biology at UC Davis, who led the project. The work was published online July 20 by the journal Plant Cell.

Sinha's lab uses dodder as a model for more serious parasites such as Striga, which attacks the roots of maize, sorghum and other African crops.

In earlier work, Sinha and colleagues found that when dodder taps into a host plant, it takes up RNA molecules that can act as chemical messengers in the host along with water, sugars and other nutrients. These circulating RNA molecules act as messengers inside plants, for example coordinating growth and flowering.

The researchers wondered if they could exploit this to attack the parasite. It is possible to switch off a gene with a short piece of RNA with which it pairs. This technique is called RNA interference or RNA silencing, and it won the Nobel Prize in medicine in 2006.

To use RNA interference against dodder, the team looked for genes that could affect the parasite but not the host.

"The answer turned out to be genes I've worked on all my career," Sinha said, describing a group of genes that control the activity of other genes involved in shoot and root growth.

These genes are active in both the host plant meristem (an area of active growth in roots and shoots) and in the haustoria, the junctions where the parasite penetrates the host, Sinha said. So the researchers identified regions that were unique to the parasite, and used them to make a short DNA construct. Tobacco plants carrying this construct make short pieces of RNA that match the genes of the parasite, but not the host.

Dodder did not grow as well on the engineered plants as on control plants, Sinha said. At the same time, the dodder showed high levels of stress signals and flowered early -- a reaction to stress.

The work was initiated by Steven Runo and spearheaded by Amos Alakonya, two African graduate students who have now returned to Kenyatta University in Kenya, Sinha said. They hope to develop the technique to control Striga in African maize crops.

"This is the proof of concept, and now we can take it into the field," she said.

Other authors on the paper are: at UC Davis, postdoctoral researchers Ravi Kumar, Seisuke Kimura, Helena M. Garces, Julie Kang, Rakefet David-Schwartz; graduate students Daniel Koenig, Brad Townsley, and undergraduate student Andrea Yanez; and Jesse Machuka at Kenyatta University.

The work was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and the National Science Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Davis. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of California - Davis. "Dodder vines: Hitting back at 'wiretapping' parasite." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 July 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120724171310.htm>.
University of California - Davis. (2012, July 24). Dodder vines: Hitting back at 'wiretapping' parasite. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120724171310.htm
University of California - Davis. "Dodder vines: Hitting back at 'wiretapping' parasite." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120724171310.htm (accessed April 16, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 16, 2014) Crocodile farming has been a challenge in Zimbabwe in recent years do the economic collapse and the financial crisis. But as Ciara Sutton reports one of Europe's biggest suppliers of skins to the luxury market has come up with an unusual survival strategy - vegetarian food. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Outbreak Now Linked To 121 Deaths

Ebola Outbreak Now Linked To 121 Deaths

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) The ebola virus outbreak in West Africa is now linked to 121 deaths. Health officials fear the virus will continue to spread in urban areas. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
In Washington, a Push to Sterilize Stray Cats

In Washington, a Push to Sterilize Stray Cats

AFP (Apr. 14, 2014) To curb the growing numbers of feral cats in the US capital, the Washington Humane Society is encouraging residents to set traps and bring the animals to a sterilization clinic, after which they are released.. Duration: 02:29 Video provided by AFP
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:
from the past week

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