Navigation Links
Dangerous Liaisons
Date:9/5/2007

Plant geneticists and animal breeders alike know the problem: single individuals or entire broods will not thrive, some die early, or remain, even if they survive, the runts of the litter and thus not useful for continued breeding programs. What is annoying for the breeder, fascinates geneticists and molecular biologists. The unfit offspring are an example that genetic material cannot always be combined at will. Apparently there are reproductive barriers that not only prevent the exchange of genes between well established species, but also between varieties of one and the same species. How these barriers arise is of central importance if one wants to understand the origin of biodiversity. A research team led by Detlef Weigel from the Max Planck Institute of Developmental Biology in Germany and Jeff Dangl from the University of North Carolina has now shown that a mis-regulated immune system can establish reproductive barriers and might be a first step toward speciation. The international collaboration studied a genetic incompatibility known as hybrid necrosis, using thale cress, Arabidopsis thaliana.

The new work, reported in the latest edition of PLoS Biology, was based on the observation that unfit hybrids from different plant species are very similar. Their growth is retarded, the leaves become yellow and necrotic, the tissue collapses and they often do not survive to make flowers; the syndrome is generally known as hybrid necrosis. "We suspected that hybrid necrosis is always caused by the same biochemical mechanism," explains Weigel, director at the Max Planck Institute.

To test this hypothesis, the scientists took 280 genetically different strains of Arabidopsis from all over the world, which they crossed in 861 different combinations. Most of the hybrid plants were strong and grew normally, but 20 - or two percent - of the crosses produced only small necrotic and unhealthy plants. Genomics-based experiments showed that these hybrids all had a comparable profile of gene activity: A common group of some 1000 genes were either more strongly or more weakly active in the hybrids than in their healthy parents. Moreover, this pattern was very similar to what is seen with a strong immune response mounted against pathogens during a normal infection. The plant immune response typically involves the sacrifice of a few cells at and around the infection site. But in the wimpy hybrids, healthy tissue also suffered - without pathogen infection. The hybrid plants apparently mistook their own cells for dangerous germs.

Although the genes that determined the abnormal autoimmunity were different in most crosses, the researchers discovered that often only two genes were required to cause the necrotic hybrid response. One of the fatal genes came from the father, the other from the mother. In one case that the researchers studied in more detail, they found that the gene that causes necrosis in hybrids, but not in the parents, is normally used to sense the presence of a pathogen. The scientists emphasize, however, that the hybrids are not the victims of malfunctioning genes: in contrast to many hereditary diseases, the necrosis is not due to each parent carrying a defective copy of the same gene. Rather, there is a destructive interaction between two different genes, each of which evolved differently in the two parents. The genes on their own are harmless or even beneficial, since the parents are healthy. Only the combination of the altered gene variants creates problems. These types of genetic malfunction are often known as Dobzhanshy-Muller incompatibilities, after the two giants of early modern genetics who first studied these necrotic hybrids in fruit flies.

The results of the German-American team challenge the classical definition of a species, according to which individuals of one species can mate at will and produce fertile offspring. Apparently there are barriers to the free interchange of genes even within a species; after all, one out of 50 crosses in this study was not successful. "The formation of new species thus needs to be understood as a gradual process, where barriers within a species continually increase, until two groups cannot be crossed at all anymore" says Weigel.

While this view is widely accepted today, it is mostly unclear, why such genetic barriers arise in the first place. Which advantage has the plant, when sometimes all seeds from a cross die" The current study offers a possible explanation. The plant genome changes under pressure from pathogens. "Plant and pathogen are locked in a race," says Dangl, professor and expert in the genetics of plant pathology at the University of North Carolina. The pathogens tirelessly develop new strategies to attack the plant and evade its immune system. The plant, in turn, tries to be prepared against as many new microbe "weapons" as possible. Armed to the teeth, it can happen that a harmless protein variant from a more distant relative is all of a sudden classified as dangerous and attacked.

The scientists are optimistic that their insights can be applied to other species. Common traits indicate that hybrid necrosis in crops such as wheat is caused by the same mechanisms as in tale cress. Dangl therefore believes that Arabidopsis can serve as a useful model for the understanding of hybrid necrosis in general. "Such a model would be very useful for breeding, since such genetic incompatibilities prevents some of the crosses breeders would like to make," according to Dangl. The finding that only a few genes are responsible for each case of hybrid necrosis is particularly encouraging. It seems that only a few genetic changes are required to circumvent crossing barriers und to achieve a desired new combination of genetic traits. The flip side of the coin is that only minimal modifications in the genome can be sufficient to suppress the free exchange of genes between relatives, and that perhaps not much is needed to form a new species.


'/>"/>

Contact: Prof. Dr. Detlef Weigel
weigel@tuebingen.mpg.de
49-707-160-11411
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert

Related medicine news :

1. Antibiotics Dangerous for Diarrhoea in Children Caused by E.Coli
2. Breaking up Dangerous Clots
3. Influenza Avian Flu strain has become more contagious and dangerous.
4. CT Pulmonary Angiography Scan More Effective In Detecting Dangerous Blood Clots In The Legs
5. Dangerous food bacteria
6. Weight-loss Products Dangerous
7. Low-Tar Cigarettes As dangerous As High-Tar Cigarettes
8. Human Growth Hormone Found To be Dangerous For Human Use
9. Mixing Ginseng and Blood Thinners Might Be Dangerous
10. Swallowing Magnets Found To Be Dangerous for Kids
11. Vaginal Birth After C-section Dangerous For Both Mother And Baby
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... June 24, 2016 , ... A recent article published June ... with. The article goes on to state that individuals are now more comfortable seeking ... common operations such as calf and cheek reduction. The Los Angeles area medical group, ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... 2016 , ... June 19, 2016 is World Sickle Cell Observance Day. In ... benefits of holistic treatments, Serenity Recovery Center of Marne, Michigan, has issued ... Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) is a disorder of the red blood cells, which can ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... 2016 , ... The Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA) learned during ... two significant new grants to support its work to advance research and patient ... recognizing patients, medical professionals and scientists for their work in fighting pulmonary hypertension ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... June 24, 2016 , ... ... for accelerated orthodontic treatment. Dr. Cheng has extensive experience with all areas of ... AcceleDent, and accelerated osteogenic orthodontics. , Micro-osteoperforation is a revolutionary adjunct to ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... ... BioMedics, Inc, makers of Topricin and MyPainAway Pain Relief Products, join The ‘Business for a ... an hour by 2020 and then adjusting it yearly to increase at the same rate ... assure the wage floor does not erode again, and make future increases more predictable. , ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:6/24/2016)... BEIJING , June 24, 2016 Dehaier ... or the "Company"), which develops, markets and sells medical ... China , signed a strategic cooperation agreement with ... as "Hongyuan Supply Chain") on June 20, 2016, to ... Under the strategic cooperation agreement, Dehaier will leverage Hongyuan ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... 24, 2016 Research and Markets has ... Companion Diagnostic Tests" report to their offering. ... Diagnostics The World Market for Companion Diagnostics ... diagnostics. Market analysis in the report includes the following: ... Vitro Diagnostic Kits) by Region (N. America, EU, ROW), 2015-2020 ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... LEXINGTON, Mass. , June 24, 2016   ... specialty pharmaceutical company developing innovative inhaled drugs, announced today ... when Russell Investments reconstituted its comprehensive set ... 2016. "This is an important milestone for ... "It will increase shareholder awareness of our progress in ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: