New research reveals antifungal symbiotic peptide in legume


Researchers have identified a sub class of peptides in the nodules of the legume, Medicago truncatula, that proved effective in inhibiting growth of the fungus causing gray mould.

Danforth Center scientists, Dilip Shah, PhD, research associate member, Siva Velivelli, PhD, postdoctoral associate, Kirk Czymmek, PhD, principal investigator and director, Advanced Bioimaging Laboratory and their collaborators at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory recently published their results in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Medicago truncatula is a relative of alfalfa. Shah and his team produced recombinantly large quantities of the highly charged NCR044 peptide that is expressed in the nodules of this legume. They then applied the peptide in low concentrations to tobacco and tomato plants in the lab and challenged the plants with the gray mould fungus. The plants showed significant protection from this fungal disease.

According to Shah, when applied to crops, the peptides will eventually break down to amino acids in the soil and be used by beneficial microbes as an energy source. “We are excited about the possibility of developing this class of peptides as a spray-on fungicide that would provide farmers with an environmentally friendly alternative to chemical fungicides for pre- and post-harvest management of fungal diseases,” said Shah.

A portion of the project was funded by TechAccel. Shah and Czymmek will continue their research and have applied to the National Science Foundation for a grant to further explore how antifungal nodule-specific peptides kill harmful fungal pathogens in vitro and in planta.



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