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A plant's immune system protects the plant from harmful pathogens. If
the system overreacts to pathogens, it can stunt plant growth and reduce
seed production. Now, University of Missouri researchers have
identified important suppressors that negatively regulate the responses
of the immune system in the plant species Arabidopsis thaliana.
Understanding the immune system of plants would allow breeders to
create better yielding crop plants.
The immune system provides plants with strong protection from
pathogens," said Walter Gassmann, associate professor of plant sciences
in the MU Christopher S. Bond Life Sciences Center and the College of
Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. "However, this response has the
potential to be highly deleterious to the plant and needs to be tightly
controlled. Certain suppressors protect the plant from responding to
harmless stimuli and from overreacting to pathogens. If there is a
mutation in these suppressors, the immune system can actually do more
damage than good."
One way that plants fight pathogens is through effector-triggered
immunity (ETI), which relies on the detection of pathogen effector
proteins (proteins that are deployed by pathogens to interfere with the
plant immune system). After the detection of a pathogen, specific
proteins in the plant, known as resistance proteins, elicit an effective
defense response. The plants' resistance proteins are regulated by
suppressors to achieve minimal side effects to the plant while providing
optimal responses to pathogens. However, when the ETI is overly
activated, it can cause stunted growth and poor seed production.
In the study, MU researchers examined plants with genetic mutations
that resulted in heightened plant immunity. By examining this mutation,
researchers were able to identify specific genetic components that may
negatively regulate the immune system and thus contribute to an
appropriate immune response.
"The general control of effector-triggered signaling is poorly
understood," Gassmann said. "Better insight into the immune system
response will allow us to develop plants with more durable safeguards
Gassmann's research has been published recently in The Plant
Journal and Plant Signaling & Behavior. The papers were
co-authored by former post-doctoral researcher Soon Il Kwon, current
graduate student Sang Hee Kim, current post-doctoral researcher Saikat
Bhattacharjee, and former visiting scientist Jae-Jong Noh.
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