Nematodes are small worms. Some species are plant-parasitic and infect plants including important agricultural crops. The typical symptoms of a nematode-infection are withering, seriously retarded growth, and impaired development of flower and fruit. Severely infected plants often do not survive the damage that the worms inflict. Each year, plant-parasitic nematodes cause more than 80 billion euro in agricultural losses worldwide.
Plant roots as food factories
Some of these nematodes have developed an ingenious way of making a plant feed them. They penetrate the plant's roots and make their way to their host's vascular bundles, which are part of the plant's transport system for water, minerals, sugars, and other nutrients. The nematodes select a single plant cell in the vascular bundle system and then inject this cell with a cocktail of proteins. The activating influence of these proteins causes the plant cell to merge with neighboring cells and to start producing food for the nematode. This plant cell − which can become as large as 200 normal plant cells − is called the nematode feeding site.
Nematodes trick the plant
Research has revealed that nematodes mislead the plant by disrupting its hormonal regulation. The plant hormone auxin, which is important for nearly every one of the plant's developmental processes, accumulates at the site of infection. Later, when the feeding site needs to grow, auxin accumulates in the neighboring plant cells. Until now, scientists have not known how nematodes manipulate the transport of auxin.
Wim Grunewald and his colleagues from VIB and Ghent University have been studying the role of PIN proteins in a popular model plant: the mouse ear cress (Arabidopsis thaliana). These plant proteins enable the transport of auxin from one cell to another. To discover the specific function of the various PIN proteins, the researchers h
|Contact: Evy Vierstraete|
VIB (the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology)