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February 28th, 2018 / Earlham Institute, UK

A study published in Genome Biology shows how plants use ‘baits’ to recognize and trap disease-causing pathogens before infection can start.

Ksenia Krasileva and her team from Earlham Institute, together with researchers from The Sainsbury Laboratory, used phylogenetic analyses to identify how these ‘bait’ genes are distributed throughout different wild and domestic grasses, including crop plants such as wheat, barley, maize, and rice. Their findings could be vital in engineering crops to be resistant to emerging diseases caused by pathogens.

By studying the genetic history of the plants, the researchers found several interesting groups that lean towards forming novel linkage with plant receptors, which were most diverse in wheat. These proteins are involved in plant stress responses in general, specifically in defense against pathogen attack. Furthermore, specific plant pathogen receptors known as nucleotide binding leucine rich repeat (NLR) proteins exhibited the ability to recognize some of the signals linked to disease-causing agents. By getting portions of proteins coded by other genes, which are often the target of pathogen infection, NLRs act as an ‘integrated defense decoy’.

Pathogens that are harmful to plants are continually evolving, thus, the researchers are hoping to develop new proteins with specifically integrated domains that give resistance to plant pathogens, particularly new threats to the important crops. Read more