Researchers funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) have opened up the black box of plant immune system genetics, boosting our ability to produce disease- and pest-resistant crops in the future. The research is published this evening (28 July) in the journal Science.
An international consortium of researchers, including Professor Jim Beynon at the University of Warwick, has used a systems biology approach to uncover a huge network of genes that all play a part in defending plants against attacks from pests and diseases a discovery that will make it possible to explore new avenues for crop improvement and in doing so ensure future food security.
Professor Beynon said "Plants have a basic defence system to keep out potentially dangerous organisms. Unfortunately some of these organisms have, over time, evolved the ability to overcome plant defences and so plant breeders are always looking for new ways to catch them out. Understanding exactly how plant immunity works is key to making developments in this area."
Professor Beynon's team looked at downy mildew as an example of a plant disease. This is caused by mould-like organism called Hyaloperonospora parasitica, which, like many organisms that infect plants, produces proteins that it introduces into the plant to undermine its natural defences.
The team studied almost 100 different so-called effector proteins from Hyaloperonospora parasitica that are known to be involved in overcoming a plant's immune system. They were looking to see how each of these proteins has an effect through interaction with other proteins that are already present in a plant. They found a total of 122 plant proteins from the commonly-studied plant Arabidopsis thaliana that are directly targeted by the proteins from Hyaloperonospora parasitica.
Professor Beynon continued "This shows that there are many more plant proteins involved in immunity than we
|Contact: Nancy Mendoza|
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council