RWTH Research Enables Eco-Friendly Crop Protection

18/02/2020

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Uwe Conrath

Leiter des Lehr- und Forschungsgebiets

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Method for isolating DNA used in plants.

 

A working group headed by Professor Uwe Conrath from the Department of Plant Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at RWTH Aachen University has developed a method that allows the so-called FAIRE method to be applied to plants. The research project involving the model higher plant Arabidopsis thaliana, also known as thale cress, has now been published in the scientific journal "Nature Protocols" and is receiving worldwide attention. The findings from Aachen contribute to a better understanding of increased defensive capacity in plants. This, in turn, opens the door to identifying natural or near-natural substances with which crops can be protected against harmful organisms in an eco-friendly manner in the future.

Using FAIRE to isolate the DNA of plants

In order to be able to determine the sequences of DNA regions in the genome of multicellular organisms, the genetic material, deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA, has to first be segregated from the proteins that are attached to it. This leads to the formation of so-called open chromatin, which plays a decisive role in the regulation of gene activity. There are various methods available to identify open chromatin, including the formaldehyde-assisted isolation of regulatory DNA elements, called FAIRE for short.

Compared to other methods, FAIRE offers many advantages, such as good reproducibility and low susceptibility to errors. Up until now, however, the method had not yet been established for use in plants. Plants have a rigid cell wall that often makes access difficult in experiments. When plant cells are broken up, other structures and molecules - for example, DNA - are also affected. In years of dedicated research, the Aachen working group has been able to develop a detailed experimental protocol with which the FAIRE method can now be applied to plants in every laboratory worldwide.

Increased defense against pathogens

The method was used in Aachen on the thale cress, a crop that had previously been infected with the bacterium Pseudomonas syringae. The plant had obviously developed a state of readiness to defend itself against future attacks and consequently, a resistance against the bacterial pathogen - comparable to the human immune system after vaccination.

"Using the FAIRE method, any of the regulatory DNA sequences of the Arabidopsis genome can be identified. If we activate them with new, naturally derived pesticides for use in crop plants, we can make poison-free and thus ecologically safe pest control a reality," Professor Conrath points out.

Source: Press and Communications