Postdoctoral fellow in Wood and Forest Science
Award-winning pulication: Expression of the β-glucosidase gene Pgβglu-1 underpins natural resistance of white spruce against spruce budworm
Published in: The Plant Journal
"This article initiates the description of a metabolic defense pathway in plants by identifying the enzyme that activates phenolic compounds that are toxic to pests. In fact, several plant species rely on phenolic compounds similar to those produced by the white spruce (Picea glauca) against insect and pathogen infestations. Biochips were used to identify the PgBglu-1 enzyme, illustrating the importance of recent technological developments in genomics for the characterization of new metabolic pathways. Finally, the article describes a major resistance mechanism against the most widespread forest pest in eastern North America: spruce budworm (Choristoneura fumiferana). High mortality rates in host species (fir and spruce trees) were observed during cyclical episodic spruce budworm epidemics."
Geneviève Parent's research establishes a natural resistance pathway that could curb the impacts of spruce budworm. The last major epidemic, which peaked between 1970 and 1990, generated costs totalling $3B in Québec alone. The losses are attributable to several factors, including the fact that severely affected trees quickly become unusable by industry. The findings will make it possible to determine the tree species that best resist the pest and increase their use in reforestation as part of an integrated biological program. Judicious selection based on the results of this study will ultimately help reduce the impacts of spruce budworm in reforested areas.