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Biotechnologists go against chili pepper’s main enemy
12 May 2014
Investigación y Desarrollo
Researchers analyze defense mechanisms against wilt
Researchers at the Autonomous University of Zacatecas (UAZ) in the north of Mexico, are designing timely biotech tools to eradicate the phenomenon known as "chili wilt", which affects most species of peppers due to fungal colonization, and which may cause a loss of up to 60 percent of the harvest.
To achieve this goal, specialists at the Integrative Biology Laboratory seek molecular biomarkers (genes that allow the observation of the characteristics of an organism) in species of native to the state of Zacatecas. Lenin Sánchez Calderón, UAZ scientist and co-owner of the project said that through this method the components responsible for enabling some species of plants to withstand extreme conditions as contaminants or pathogens (disease-producing) can be known genetically.
Sánchez Calderón explained that certain species of plants in the state of Zacatecas survive conditions where the soil has excessive amounts of metals such as mercury (given the prevailing mining in the state). For that reason, he said, the natural defense of some plants is an open source of knowledge to design biotechnological tools to improve the resistance of other species.
"There are different defense mechanisms among some species for extreme pollutants. For example, some plants harden their cell wall in the presence of fungi, preventing its entry, and other species induce the death of some of its parts to prevent the fungus from moving forward, “said Sánchez Calderón.
Both Sanchez Calderon and other scientists involved in the project focus their efforts on the search of biomarkers that will allow to develop diagnoses of two agents that cause chili wilt, since Zacatecas is the main producer of the species popularly known as “chile guajillo”. With this, in a medium term biotechnological tools will be elaborated to diagnose possible wilt, before it happens.
"By knowing the defense mechanisms of some plants against extreme pollutants, it would also be possible to design strategies for bioremediation of areas near mines, which have greater soil pollution because of heavy metals," the UAZ specialist added.
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