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[nafex] Genes of CVC Disease Mapped
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- Date: Thu, 13 Jul 2000 14:04:25 -0400
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Thought the list would find this worthy of a post. It's long but,
Off the AP newswire....
Wednesday July 12 2:45 PM ET
By JEFF BARNARD, Associated Press Writer
For the first time, scientists have reported mapping the genes of a plant
disease, an advance that could lead to new approaches to fighting a
bacterial scourge that ravages orange groves and other crops.
The work also sheds light on the way bacteria infect both humans and plants
and thwart their defenses.
``This sort of information is going to open up crop protection strategies
the way genome sequencing is opening up new pharmaceutical strategies to
control infectious diseases'' in people, said Charles J. Arntzen, president
of the Boyce Thompson Institute at Cornell University.
Sponsored by the State of Sao Paolo Research Foundation in Brazil, 200
scientists in 34 molecular biology labs worked for two years to sequence the
genome of the bacteria Xylella fastidiosa.
The scientists reported in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature that they
were able to identify the function of 47 percent of the bacteria's 2,904
genes, offering researchers targets for developing cheaper ways of
controlling the disease, known as citrus variegated chlorosis, or CVC.
Joao Carlos Setubal, who led the study as coordinator of the Bioinformatics
Laboratory at the University of Campinas in Brazil, said the project made
Brazil a new force in the international genome arena, after starting from a
position of practically no local expertise.
The scientists also reported finding at least 83 genes in Xylella fastidiosa
that came from other bacteria, including some that help fight off a plant's
``This is the strongest story we have had in the plant biology area or
non-human medicine for gene transfer across bacteria,'' Arntzen said. It
gives scientists a better understanding of how germs and evolve along with
the plants they infect, he said.
The finding also sheds light on how bacteria that cause human diseases
develop resistance to antibiotics, he added.
``It really is fascinating to see how many similarities there are between
plant and human pathogens,'' Arntzen said. ``That is what is coming out of a
lot of genome sequencing. We can study one organism and learn something
about another one.''
Carried by insects called sharpshooter leafhoppers, the bacteria infest the
xylem, the tubes under the bark of a tree that transport water. By blocking
water absorption, the disease causes the fruit to be small, hard and
commercially worthless. Related strains of the bacteria attack coffee,
almonds, pecans, grapevines, alfalfa, peaches and other plants.
The disease was first identified in Brazil in 1987 and causes $50 million a
year in damage to orange groves there, which produce half the orange juice
concentrate in the world, Setubal said.
The strain of bacteria was chosen for the genome project because it is
expensive to combat with current means, which include insecticides, pruning
and replacing trees.
With this new knowledge of the genetic processes in the bacteria, it may be
possible to create a simple drug that would either kill it or make it
harmless to the plant, he added.
Though 23 other bacteria genomes have been mapped, this marks the first time
scientists have publicly reported sequencing a free-living type of bacteria
that causes disease in plants, Michael Bevan of the John Innes Centre in
England wrote in an accompanying editorial.
``With the importance of plant pathogens limiting our food supply, it is
really quite shocking that this is the first time a complete genome sequence
has been produced,'' Arntzen said. ``When you consider how many human
pathogens have been completely sequenced, it tells us where we put our
priorities in terms of research investment.''
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