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A garden can be a competitive environment. Plants and unseen microorganisms in the soil all need precious space to grow. And to gain that space, a microbe might produce and use chemicals that kill its plant competitors. But the microbe also needs immunity from its own poisons.
By looking for that protective shield in microorganisms, specifically the genes that can make it, a team of UCLA engineers and scientists discovered a new and potentially highly effective type of weed killer. This finding could lead to the first new class of commercial herbicides in more than 30 years, an important outcome as weeds continue to develop resistance to current herbicide regimens.
Technique - Data - Science - Genomics - Team
Using a technique that combines data science and genomics, the team found the new herbicide by searching the genes of thousands of fungi for one that might provide immunity against fungal poisons. This approach is known as "resistance gene-directed genome mining."
The study, which was published in Nature, also points to the potential for this genomics-driven approach to be used in medicine, with applications ranging from new antibiotics to advanced cancer-fighting drugs.
Microorganisms - Potent - Enemies - Yi - Tang
"Microorganisms are very smart at protecting themselves from the potent molecules they make to kill their enemies," said Yi Tang, the study's co-principal investigator and a UCLA professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, and of chemistry and biochemistry. "The presence of these resistance genes provides a window into the functions of the molecules, and can allow us to discover these molecules and apply them to diverse applications in human health and agriculture."
For example, if a resistance gene that protects a microorganism from an anti-bacterial product is found, there's a possibility that the microorganism also has genes to produce that same anti-bacterial compound. That discovery could potentially lead to new antibacterial medicines.
Herbicide - Acts - Function - Enzyme
The new herbicide acts by inhibiting the function of an enzyme that...
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