Boosting Plant Protection with Improved Peptide Antibiotics

Jenn Hoskins
1st May, 2024

Boosting Plant Protection with Improved Peptide Antibiotics

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • In Italy, modified peptides from a fungus showed strong antibacterial effects on plant pathogens
  • These peptides, when altered, reduced infection severity in tomatoes and kiwifruit
  • The study suggests these peptides could lead to safer, sustainable plant disease management
In agriculture, the battle against plant diseases is ongoing and critical for ensuring food security and sustainability. One of the most problematic pathogens is Pseudomonas syringae, a bacterium responsible for a wide range of plant diseases. Traditionally, farmers have relied on copper-based products and antibiotics to control these outbreaks, but these methods are increasingly under scrutiny due to their environmental impact and safety concerns. A promising alternative lies in the use of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs), which are natural substances produced by organisms to defend against microbial infections. Researchers from the National Research Council of Italy have been exploring the potential of a specific AMP called Trichogin GA IV, produced by the fungus Trichoderma longibrachiatum[1]. This peptide is part of a larger family known as peptaibols, which have been identified for their ability to disrupt the integrity of cell membranes in various pathogens, including bacteria and fungi[2][3]. The focus of the recent study was to enhance the water solubility and potency of Trichogin GA IV against Pseudomonas syringae, particularly strains that affect tomatoes and kiwifruit. The innovation involved introducing lysine, an amino acid, in place of glycine within the peptide sequence. This modification aimed to increase the peptide's solubility and interaction with bacterial membranes. The study revealed that analogs of Trichogin GA IV with two or three glycine-to-lysine substitutions exhibited strong antibacterial activity in laboratory conditions. These modified peptides were able to inhibit the growth of Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato (Pst) and Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae (Psa) biovar 3, which are responsible for diseases in tomatoes and kiwifruit, respectively. Furthermore, when these tri-lysine containing analogs were applied to tomato plants before inoculation with Pst, they significantly reduced the severity of the infection and bacterial numbers. This finding is particularly important because it demonstrates the potential of these peptides to be used in a preventative manner in crop protection. Microscopy analyses provided insight into how these peptides exert their antibacterial effects. The mono-, di-, and tri-Lys containing analogs interacted with the Pst cells to varying degrees, causing ultrastructural changes that ultimately led to cell lysis, or the breaking down of the bacterial cell wall. Previous studies have established the role of peptaibols like Trichogin GA IV in forming pores in lipid membranes, which is a key mechanism by which they exert their antimicrobial effects[2]. While earlier research indicated that these peptides could perturb the membrane by inserting themselves and causing it to thin, thereby compromising the cell's integrity[3], the current study provides practical applications by modifying these peptides to enhance their antibacterial activity against specific plant pathogens. The research also builds upon the understanding that peptaibols can be effective in agricultural settings. For instance, water-soluble peptide analogs of trichogin have been synthesized and tested against grapevine downy mildew, showing promising results in both laboratory and field trials[4]. This reinforces the idea that with appropriate modifications, peptaibols can be tailored to combat a variety of plant pathogens effectively. The significance of this research lies in its contribution to the development of sustainable plant disease management strategies. By modifying naturally occurring AMPs to be more water-soluble and potent against specific pathogens, researchers are paving the way for biopesticides that could reduce the reliance on traditional chemical fungicides and antibiotics. In conclusion, the study from the National Research Council of Italy has made significant strides in the development of biocontrol agents that are environmentally friendly and effective against harmful plant bacteria. The use of modified Trichogin GA IV analogs presents a viable alternative to conventional methods, offering hope for more sustainable and safe agricultural practices.

MedicineBiotechPlant Science


Main Study

1) Multiple lysine substitutions in the peptaibol trichogin GA IV enhance the antibiotic activity against plant pathogenic Pseudomonas syringae.

Published 30th April, 2024

Related Studies

2) Water-Soluble Trichogin GA IV-Derived Peptaibols Protect Tomato Plants From Botrytis cinerea Infection With Limited Impact on Plant Defenses.

3) Membrane thickness and the mechanism of action of the short peptaibol trichogin GA IV.

4) Peptide Analogs of a Trichoderma Peptaibol Effectively Control Downy Mildew in the Vineyard.

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