A research journey leads to important discovery: Unraveling soybean cyst nematode resistance
For more information:
Andrew Bent, Professor
Department of Plant Pathology
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
Phone (608) 265-3034, (608) 265-3075
3:08 – Total time
0:18 – Introduction to a discovery
0:47 – Surprise in the science
1:13 – What to do with the discovery
1:45 – Genetically rare
2:22 – Putting the new knowledge to work
2:58 – Lead out
Unraveling the mystery of soybean cyst nematode resistance. We’re visiting today with Andrew Bent, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Madison, WI and I’m Sevie Kenyon.
Sevie Kenyon: Andrew, can you introduce us to your discovery?
Andrew Bent: Soybean cyst nematode is the biggest disease of soybean worldwide. More soybean yield is lost to soybean cyst nematode than any other disease. There’s a gene that plant breeders have been using for a number of years now to help the plants resist the soybean cyst nematode but no one’s ever known that those genes encode. Part of our discovery was, to the surprise, that what we thought would be one gene is actually three genes.
Sevie Kenyon: Why is it so surprising?
Andrew Bent: Normally, at a particular place on the chromosome when you have a gene that helps you with something useful it encodes one protein. In this case, we’ve got a cluster of three genes right next to each other encoding three very different proteins. That’s just not very common in higher multi-cellular organisms like humans or plants.
Sevie Kenyon: Andrew, what do you think you’re going to do with this discovery?
Andrew Bent: We are going to put it out there for people to try to understand, first of all, because at the scientific level we’d like to be able to manipulate soybeans for better soybean cyst nematode resistance. But we’ve got a ways to go before we can accomplish that, but our discovery already suggests that you might be able to identify existing soybeans that are out there that have more copies of these genes. That’s part of our discovery.
Sevie Kenyon: Andrew, can you describe where these genes sit in that soybean plant?
Andrew Bent: What’s interesting is where they sit in relation to each other. Not only are there three genes right next to each other but the soybean cyst nematode susceptible soybeans have one copy of the gene and the soybean cyst nematode resistant plants have ten copies of this three-gene block. That’s where the basic genetic scientists are intrigued by this discovery. That you would have a three-gene block and then there would be ten copies of that all right next to each other in the genome is quite unusual.
Sevie Kenyon: Andrew, can I get you to describe some of those biological processes that may be used to implement this knowledge?
Andrew Bent: It’s a natural disease-resistance mechanism that’s already in soybeans. So what we would try to do it make it work a little bit better, possibly by having the proteins expressed at a higher level and possibly by changing the amino acid sequence of those proteins just a little bit to tweak their activity so they may be functioned a little bit better. I think that it may be five or so years and we’ll have a very good understanding of molecular mechanisms which might allow more biotechnological approaches to using this to improve disease resistance.
Sevie Kenyon: We’ve been visiting with Andrew Bent, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Madison, WI and I’m Sevie Kenyon.