Kao also explained that self-incompatibility in plants can be likened to the adaptive immune system in vertebrates. "The plant needs to distinguish between non-self and self to know which plants it should breed with and which it should reject as too similar," Kao explained. "In the same way, our bodies distinguish between non-self and self to know what to attack and what to leave alone." Kao explained that when pathogens enter our bodies, our T-cells recognize them as foreign invaders and battle against them by triggering production of antibodies by B-cells. "When this system goes awry, our bodies misidentify self as non-self and attack it," Kao said. "These attacks on our own tissues are known as auto-immune disorders; arthritis and Lupus are just a couple of examples." Kao also explained that, just as we have evolved many different types of T-cell receptors to collectively recognize the many foreign antigens we might encounter in our environment, plants have evolved many versions of self-incompatibility genes that produce multiple types of SLF proteins in pollen to collectively recognize a large suite of possible non-self elements -- S-RNase proteins.
In addition to Kao, other members of the research team include Ken-ichi Kubo, Tetsuyuki Entani, Akie Takara, Mamiko Toyoda, Shin-ichi Kawashima, Akira Isogai, and Seiji Takayama from Japan's Nara Institute of Science and Technology; Ning Wang, Allison M. Fields, and Zhihua Hua from Penn State; and Toshio Ando from Japan's Chiba University. The research conducted at Penn State was funded by the National Science Foundation.
|Contact: Barbara Kennedy|