Fighting multi-drug resistance with synergists for fungicides

Multi-drug resistance in pathogens like gray mold threatens the effectiveness of fungicides to protect crops, but Prof. Pengfei Liu sees the potential of natural synergistic products in aiding current fungicides. View Halo Profile >>

Tell us about your research.

Gray mold caused by Botrytis cinerea is a disease threatening many vegetables and flowers. The pathogen has a high risk of developing resistance against fungicides. More importantly, B. cinerea has developed strains possessing multi-drug resistance (MDR). Consequently, resistance contributed by the overexpression of ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporter can fail fungicides with different modes of action. Our trajectory of research is to clarify the mechanism of berberine hydrochloride function as an efflux pump inhibitor in MDR B. cinerea strain using molecular docking, genetic transformation, and sensitivity tests.

The pathogen has a high risk of developing resistance against fungicides. More importantly, B. cinerea has developed strains possessing multi-drug resistance (MDR).

Can you explain that to a non-scientist?

Gray mold is a fungal disease that affects many fruits and vegetables. The pathogen can mutate and generate strains that resist many types of fungicides and cause excess residues of fungicides in food. We have found berberine hydrochloride as a synergist to overcome fungicide resistance and boost fungicide efficacy. Our research aims to understand the synergism between berberine hydrochloride and fungicides.

Why did you choose this area of research?

MDR is a newly recognized threat. It results in a decline of the control effect in multiple fungicides and therefore eliminates the option of fungicide rotation. We hope to use a new strategy to control MDR and restore the sensitivity of pathogens to fungicides. As such, fewer types of fungicides are needed to effectively control plant diseases, thereby more commonly used fungicides can be continued in application. This will alleviate the pressure of developing new types of chemicals.

Therefore, understanding recombination is a multifaceted question that brings basic insights into how genomes work and evolve, and also has applied impacts in crop breeding. 

How could your Grants4Ag project someday impact #healthforall #hungerfornone?

We use natural substances derived from plants as a synergistic product for fungicides to improve the control effect on MDR gray mold. It will significantly reduce the amount of chemical use, reduce pesticide residues in food, and save more crop yields, benefitting food, the environment, and society.