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Researchers examine plant's ability to identify, block invading bacteria

Understanding how plants defend themselves from bacterial infections may help researchers understand how people and other animals could be better protected from such pathogens.

That's the idea behind a study to observe a specific bacteria that infects tomatoes but normally does not bother the common laboratory plant arabidopsis. Researchers hoped to understand how infection is selective in various organisms, according to a Texas AgriLife Research scientist.

Dr. Hisashi Koiwa collaborated with colleagues in Germany and Switzerland to examine the immune capabilities of different mutations of the arabidopsis plant. Their findings appeared in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

In this study, the team was trying to figure out how a plant defends itself rather than how it gets sick, said Koiwa, who provided about 10 different lines of mutant arabidopsis plants grown in his lab at Texas A&M University.

"By learning what is wrong with a sick plant," he said, "we can study how a plant can defend itself, what mechanisms it uses for protection."

The team had to examine the plants at the cellular level where molecules are busy performing different jobs.

To understand the process, one has to examine components such as "N-glycans, receptors and ligands," Koiwa said.

The N-glycan is a polysaccharide that is critical in protein folding, a natural process which if it becomes unstable leads to various diseases, Koiwa explained. A receptor is a protein decorated with N-glycans which awaits signals from the ligands that bind and activate receptor molecules.

In viewing this mechanism across various arabidopsis plants that had been mutated to achieve different N-glycan structures, the researchers found one particular N-glycan that was critical in making sure that the receptor molecules can recognize the targeted bacteria molecule, he said.

If that polysaccharide can recognize a pathogen, it

Contact: Kathleen Phillips
Texas A&M AgriLife Communications

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