The researchers also showed why they antagonized each other, he said. RAR1 and HSP90 can prevent resistance proteins from disappearing, while SGT1 helps them disappear. The result is that the system remains poised for an immediate response to bacteria and other attackers.
"By controlling disappearance of resisting proteins, RAR1, HSP90 and SGT1 control whether or not the plant is about to recognize that it is under pathogen attack," Holt said. "So the emerging story is that RAR1 and HSP90 keep resistance proteins ready to perceive pathogen signals, and SGT1 probably pulls against these two to send resistance proteins to their destruction."
The National Science Foundation supported the research through its Arabidopsis 20-10 Project, which aims to describe the functions of all 28,000 genes in the model plant.
Scientists study Arabidopsis, also known as thale cress or mouse-eared cress, because it is small and can produce five to six generations a year rather than just one or two like most crop plants. That rapid reproduction allows them to study the plant's genetics faster than they could with other species.
Understanding Arabidopsis completely will teach scientists an enormous amount about all other flowering plants, which are closely related genetically, Dangl said. The new genomics technology, developed by Patrick Brown and David Botstein at Stanford University, has been applied to yeast, fruit flies and humans but not to plants in a large, systematic way. Arabidopsis was the first plant for which scientists succeeded in mapping its entire genetic composition.
Dangl is also with UNC's Curriculum in Genetics, Depart