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Ed Leahy

BY ED LEAHY

Researchers make plant disease breakthrough

Discovery of immunity chromosomes in plants can pave the way for developing disease resistant crops

Researchers make plant disease breakthrough

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A global research team is claiming a major breakthrough in fighting plant disease with the discovery of immunity chromosomes. 

Led by the University of Sheffield, alongside Melbourne's La Trobe University, PSL University in Paris, and the Technical University of Munich, the team identified for the first time the specific locations within a plant’s chromosomes that impart disease resistance to their offspring.

Their findings, which were published in the journal eLife, reveal four DNA loci that control disease resistance against common plant pathogen downy mildew. 

La Trobe Univeristy Research Fellow Dr Ritushree Jain said plants that have been attacked by pathogens develop a “memory” with enables them to fight off pathogens in the future.

Jain said: “Not only could this significant discovery lead to new ways of preventing disease in important crops, but it could also help reduce our reliance on pesticides.” 

Lead researcher Professor Jurriaan Ton from the University of Sheffield’s P3 Plant Production and Protection Centre said findings from the study pave the way for further research into how epigenetics can help to improve disease resistance in food crops.

“We now hope to use this study to carry out further research to understand how these epigenetic loci control so many different defence genes,” Ton said.

“We are also keen to participate in more translational studies, in order to find out whether epigenetics can be used to prime disease resistance in crops that are vital to food supplies around the world.”

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