A protein that allows the fungus which causes white mold stem rot in more than 600 plant species to overcome plant defenses has been identified by a team of U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Washington State University (WSU) scientists. Knowledge of this protein, called SsPINE1, could help researchers develop a new, more precise system of control measures for the Sclerotinia sclerotiorum fungus, which attacks potatoes, soybeans, sunflowers, peas, lentils, canola, and many other broad leaf crops. The damage can add up to billions of dollars in a year of bad outbreaks. S. sclerotiorum fungi cause plants to rot and die by secreting chemicals called polygalacturonases (PG), which break down the plant’s cell walls. Plants evolved to protect themselves by producing a protein that stops or inhibits the fungus’ PG, labeled PGIP, which was discovered in 1971. Since then, scientists have known that some fungal pathogens have a way to overcome plant’s PGIP, but they had not been able to identify it.

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