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K-State research looks at pathogenic attacks on host plants
Date:12/17/2010

MANHATTAN, KAN. -- Two Kansas State University researchers focusing on rice genetics are providing a better understanding of how pathogens take over a plant's nutrients.

Their research provides insight into ways of reducing crop losses or developing new avenues for medicinal research.

Frank White, professor of plant pathology, and Ginny Antony, postdoctoral fellow in plant pathology, are co-authors, in partnership with researchers at three other institutions, of an article in a recent issue of the journal Nature. The article, "Sugar transporters for intercellular exchange and nutrition of pathogens," was led by Li-Qing Chen from the department of plant biology in the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University.

The project involves the identification a family of sugar transporters, called SWEETS, which transport glucose between plant cells. These transporters are also important because they are targeted by pathogens trying to obtain plant sugar for nutrition.

"It's remarkable," White said. "These bacteria are able to regulate the plant genes directly by inserting proteins into the plant cells. The proteins take over the transcription of the SWEET gene, and the plant, as a consequence, becomes susceptible to bacterial disease."

White and Antony focused specifically on rice bacterial disease and tried to understand what makes rice susceptible and what makes it resistant to specific pathogens. The K-State researchers discovered three resistance genes in rice that can be mutated in order to build the resistance of the rice against a pathogen. One of these resistance genes -- Xa13 -- is included in the Nature article and was discovered by White's lab in 2006.

"We've identified the genes that bacteria can induce to cause the plant to be susceptible," White said. "We've identified them as critical for disease from a pathogen standpoint. For the plant, these genes are involved in normal dev
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Contact: Frank White
fwhite@k-state.edu
785-532-1362
Kansas State University
Source:Eurekalert

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