Diseaseresistant transgenic plants

A further approach to the reduction of global post-harvest losses caused by pathogens is the introduction of disease-resistant genes in agriculture. Specifically, plant resistant genes (usually referred as R-genes) are the most extensively used genes for the development of disease-resistant transgenic plants.189 Since the demonstration of the enhanced disease resistance of transgenic plants in the earliest 1990s, there have been many studies on the characterisation of hundreds of R-genes, aiming to optimise R-gene mediated resistance by means of genetic engineering.131138,190191 It is outside of the scope of this chapter to deal with the genetic approach or with the development of genetically modified plants with enhanced resistance to decay (interested readers can refer to reviews on the subject).192194 Nevertheless, a few comments are worth making that are essentially related to the production of transgenic plants which may help in the development of physical methods, specifically laser-based detection methods and, subsequently, may contribute to new protocols to improve the post-harvest resistance of crops.

A good example of this strategy is the development of transgenic plants that have altered characteristics of volatile emission. Along this line of research the group of Kuhlemeier in Berne have developed transgenic tomatoes plants that display enhanced production of the volatile compound acetaldehyde. Comparative analysis of such a volatile emission from infected transgenic and wild type tomatoes carried out by the LPAS method clearly indicated that acetaldehyde emission in the transgenic fruit took less time compared with the wild type. This decrease can be understood by considering the possibility that the transgenic fruit uses this component more immediately and more efficiently for other processes during interaction with the pathogen, in other words, other reactions control the defence mechanism against the pathogen. This is therefore a good illustration where the interplay between the genetic and physical approach contributed to clear identification of acetaldehyde as a potential antibiotic for improvement of plant resistance to pathogenesis.

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