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Fungus in a test tube first step to curing ‘corn smut’

maize

Credit: Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain

Researchers have mimicked the makeup of a corn plant in the lab to investigate “corn smut” and open the door to finding a cure for the disease. Their study appears in Science

Ustilago maydis or “corn smut” is a fungus that presents as sooty tumors on corn cobs and can only occur on a host. It costs the United States agricultural industry $1 billion annually by disrupting corn seed production.

It is also considered a delicacy in Mexico. Known as ‘huitlacoche’, it is prized for its rich, smoky flavor and has been served in dishes since the time of the Aztecs.

For the first time, researchers have replicated the plant environment in the lab to study the fungus and its properties. In this controlled, precise environment, they can investigate factors that influence virulence and reproduction, and identify promising targets for future fungicide development.

Research on corn grime could provide clues not only to its cure, but also to the cure of similar fungi that affect staple crops, says UBC researcher and lead author Dr. Matthias Kretschmer, who plans to sample the smoky growth the next time he’s in Mexico.






Credit: UBC News

Essential virulence proteins of maize dirt discovered


More information:
Matthias Kretschmer et al, Organic acids and glucose prime late stage fungal biotrophy in maize, Science (2022). DOI: 10.1126/science.abo2401

Provided by the University of British Columbia


Quote: Fungus in a test tube first step to cure ‘corn smut’ (2022, June 9,), retrieved June 9, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-fungus-tube-corn-smut.html

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