Michigan State University (MSU) scientists are looking at the biochemisty of plants in a research that could lead to plants that are less susceptible to insects. In Professor Robert Last's Laboratory, postdoctoral scholar Pengxiang Fan and undergraduate biochemistry and molecular biology student Abigail Miller were able to reconstruct the pathway of chemical processes that a tomato plant uses to create useful compounds called acyl sugars.

 

These compounds are made in both the garden variety and wild relatives of tomato plants. The researchers examined how a single cell at the tip of tiny hairs on these plants ─ called trichomes ─ are able to create products that protect them from being eaten by insects.
The potential of the research is wide-ranging, with possible future applications in plant breeding and other industries. "Understanding this pathway could also allow us to come up with strategies to make these kind of useful compounds in microorganisms or in other plants that don't normally make them," Professor Last said.
For more information, read the MSU news release.