Magazine article USA TODAY

Cloning Genes That Resist Disease

Magazine article USA TODAY

Cloning Genes That Resist Disease

Article excerpt

Scientists from Purdue and Cornell universities for the first time have used a new method of gene isolation to clone a disease-resistance gene from a crop plant. The breakthrough has several significant aspects:

* It is the first time a disease-resistance gene has been cloned and moved from one crop variety to another. The research opens the door for improved disease resistance in a variety of crops.

* The findings could decrease the need for pesticides by the turn of the century.

* The path to discovery gave unexpected insights into the biology of how plants fight diseases.

* It represents the first time a gene in a crop plant has been isolated using "map-based cloning," a technique initially employed in the human genome project (the effort to map all human genes).

"Unlike other methods of creating disease-resistant plants, where a bacterial gene is moved into plants, here we have taken a gene from a disease-resistant tomato plant and moved it into a susceptible tomato plant," explains Greg Martin, assistant professor of agronomy at Purdue and lead investigator on the three-year project. "The benefit to the general public is that disease-resistance genes already existing in plants offer the best forms of pest control for agriculture. …

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