Spicing Up the N Gene: F. O. Holmes and Tobacco mosaic virus Resistance in Capsicum and Nicotiana Plants. Academic Article uri icon


  • One of the seminal events in plant pathology was the discovery by Francis O. Holmes that necrotic local lesions induced on certain species of Nicotiana following rub-inoculation of Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) was due to a specific interaction involving a dominant host gene (N). From this, Holmes had an idea that if the N gene from N. glutinosa was introgressed into susceptible tobacco, the greatly reduced titer of TMV would, by extension, prevent subsequent infection of tomato and pepper plants by field workers whose hands were contaminated with TMV from their use of chewing and smoking tobacco. The ultimate outcome has many surprising twists and turns, including Holmes' failure to obtain fertile crosses of N. glutinosa N. tabacum after 3 years of intensive work. Progress was made with N. digluta, a rare amphidiploid that was readily crossed with N. tabacum. And, importantly, the first demonstration by Holmes of the utility of interspecies hybridization for virus resistance was made with Capsicum (pepper) species with the identification of the L gene in Tabasco pepper, that he introgressed into commercial bell pepper varieties. Holmes' findings are important as they predate Flor's gene-for-gene hypothesis, show the use of interspecies hybridization for control of plant pathogens, and the use of the local lesion as a bioassay to monitor resistance events in crop plants.

published proceedings

  • Phytopathology

altmetric score

  • 1.6

author list (cited authors)

  • Scholthof, K.

citation count

  • 7

complete list of authors

  • Scholthof, Karen-Beth G

publication date

  • February 2017