doi:10.1038/nindia.2017.103 Published online 17 August 2017
Tweaking a common plant hormone could protect brassica plants from blight and boost mustard yields, scientists at the G. B. Pant University of Agriculture and Technology report1.
Every year, different regions of India report losing between 30-70% of mustard crops, in part to diseases such as fungal blight. Other methods for protecting from the disease and boosting production — such as creating transgenic plants, cultivating blight-resistant strains, or spraying with fungicides — are difficult to implement and can have negative impacts on the environment. As a result, the country imports edible oil.
Jasmonic acid is a small molecule known to play a role in plant development, and effectively boosts model plants’ ability to resist blight. While there are several proteins involved in the jasmonic acid pathway, the group decided to focus on a protein that is known to interact directly with jasmonic acid, coronatine insensitive-1 (COI1)2. “We have found that when jasmonic acid is applied it reduces the disease, but it does not completely eliminate the disease. We wanted to identify some molecules that are more effective than jasmonic acid,” said Dinesh Pandey, one of the senior authors of the study.
Using the nucleotide and amino acid sequence, they created a computer-based structural model of COI1. Next, they tested how 760 molecules with structures closely related to jasmonic acid interacted with their COI1 model. Three molecules performed more effectively than jasmonic acid, and had promising cell permeability characteristics.
Though these early results are encouraging, the identified molecules still need to be synthesized and tested in the field.