LEXINGTON, Ky., (March 28, 2011) University of Kentucky plant pathologists recently discovered a metabolite that plays a critical role early on in the ability of plants, animals, humans and one-celled microorganisms to fend off a wide range of pathogens at the cellular level, which is known as systemic immunity. This mode of resistance has been known for more than 100 years, but the key events that stimulate that resistance have remained a mystery.
The findings of the UK College of Agriculture researchers, led by Pradeep Kachroo and Aardra Kachroo, were published online in Nature Genetics March 27. Researchers from the UK Department of Statistics and Washington State University also contributed to the article.
"If you can generate systemic immunity, you can have great benefits in disease resistance," Pradeep Kachroo said. "It is particularly gratifying to be able to describe a mechanism for a type of immunity; pioneering studies were incidentally carried out by our own emeritus faculty, Joe Kuc."
Using soybeans and Arabidopsis, a model laboratory plant, the scientists were able to identify the metabolite glycerol-3-phosphate as a key mobile regulator of systemic immunity. A metabolite is a substance produced in the body through normal metabolic processes. The glycerol-3-phosphate transforms into an unknown compound and uses a protein, called DIR1 to signal systemic immunity. Scientists already identified the protein as a necessary component to trigger systemic immunity.
"The metabolite and protein are dependent on each other to transport immunity from one location in the plant tissue to the other," Pradeep Kachroo said. "Metabolite levels increase in plant tissues after the plant has been inoculated by a pathogen."
While the research was conducted on plants, Pradeep Kachroo said all organisms have a similar process of triggering systemic immunity.
"The metabolite is a highly conserved compound i
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University of Kentucky