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Studying pest-resistance in corn using nuclear techniques

Researchers at the University of Missouri have determined the mechanisms corn plants use to combat the western corn rootworm.


December 13, 2016
By University of Missouri

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Richard Ferrieri, a research professor in the MU Interdisciplinary Plant Group, along with an international team of researchers used radioisotopes to trace essential nutrients and hormones as they moved through live corn plants.

By tagging auxin (a powerful plant hormone) with a radioactive tracer, the researchers were able to use positron emission tomography (PET) imaging to watch the movement of auxin in living plant roots in real time. The researchers found that auxin is tightly regulated at the root tissue level where rootworms are feeding. The study also revealed that auxin biosynthesis is vital to root regrowth and involves highly specific biochemical pathways that are influenced by the rootworm and triggered by glutamine metabolism.

“This work has revealed several new insights about root regrowth in crops that can fend off a rootworm attack,” Ferrieri said. “Our observations suggest that improving glutamine utilization could be a good place to start for crop breeding programs or for engineering rootworm-resistant corn for a growing global population.”

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Read the original report here.