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Reading the signs: Plants and animals found common ground in response to microbial threats
Date:11/19/2010

tructural and strategic similarity," Ronald says. "We now know that plants and animals respond to microbial signature molecules using analogous regulatory modules, which likely came about as a consequence of convergent evolution."

While host sensormediated immune responses are essential for innate immunity in both plants and animals, sustained or highly induced immune responses can be harmful, which makes negative regulation of these pathways critical. In animals, negative regulators act at multiple levels within certain molecular signaling cascades, but little is yet known about the negative regulation of plant innate immunity.

"Characterization of new host sensors will pave the way to inter-specific and inter-generic transfer between plants of engineered receptors that confer resistance to a variety of pathogens," Ronald says, adding that this approach has already been demonstrated in transference work with cultivated rice and wheat varieties, as well as with tobacco and tomato.

"There may also be room to engineer resistance in vertebrates as well, including humans," she says.

In the Science paper, Ronald speculates that some microbes might be pathogenic to humans because they have managed to evade detection by human Toll-like receptors. Now that some of the essential building blocks of immunity have been elucidated, she believes it may be possible to manipulate these receptors so that microbes can no longer evade them.


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Contact: Lynn Yarris
lcyarris@lbl.gov
510-486-5375
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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