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Change in temperature uncovers genetic cross talk in plant immunity
Date:11/15/2010

Like us, plants rely on an immune system to fight off disease. Proteins that scout out malicious bacterial invaders in the cell and communicate their presence to the nucleus are important weapons in the plant's disease resistance strategy. Researchers at the University of Missouri recently "tapped" into two proteins' communications with the nucleus and discovered a previously unknown level of cross talk. The discovery adds important new information about how plant proteins mediate resistance to bacteria that cause disease and may ultimately lead to novel strategies for boosting a plant's immune system.

Special proteins in the plant, called resistance proteins, can recognize highly specific features of proteins from pathogen, called effector proteins. When a pathogen is detected, a resistance protein triggers an "alarm" that communicates the danger to the cell's nucleus. The communication between the resistance protein and nucleus occurs through a mechanism called a signaling pathway.

"The signaling pathway is like a telephone wire that stretches between each resistance protein all the way to the nucleus," said Walter Gassmann, senior author of the study and associate professor of plant sciences in the Christopher S. Bond Life Sciences Center at the University. "Until now, evidence suggested that, among certain classes of resistance proteins, these wires don't cross -- one resistance protein can't hear what another one is saying."

But in a recent study, Gassmann and his MU colleagues -- post-doctoral researchers Sang Hee Kim and Saikat Bhattacharjee, graduate students Fei Gao and Ji Chul Nam, and former undergraduate student Joe Adiasor -- "tapped" into these lines and found evidence for cross talk between two different resistance proteins.

The discovery was made while studying another plant protein, SRFR1, which helps to moderate the immune response of the wild mustard plant Arabidopsis thaliana to the bacterial pathogen
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Contact: Melody Kroll
KrollMM@missouri.edu
573-884-4144
University of Missouri-Columbia
Source:Eurekalert

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