Nav: Home

Blueprint for plant immune response found

January 11, 2019

Washington State University researchers have discovered the way plants respond to disease-causing organisms, and how they protect themselves, leading the way to potential breakthroughs in breeding resistance to diseases or pests.

The results were published in the journal Plant Physiology and describe how plants respond to a molecule released during damage caused by infection or outside entities. The paper shows how adenosine 5-triphospate (ATP), a part of DNA and energy production in cells, becomes a signal for injury or infection when outside cells. That signal triggers defense responses in plants.

"We found the pathways that connect ATP to plant cell responses protecting the plant," said David Gang, WSU professor in the Institute of Biological Chemistry.

The science behind this is exciting, but the major impact on society will come from the future use of this information, said WSU Plant Pathology assistant professor Kiwamu Tanaka.

"This is a blueprint for how a plant's immune system works," Tanaka said. "In some respects, even the most innovative breeding programs are still groping around in the dark to build resistance. But if you have the blueprint, you can reach the goal much faster."

Gang compared it to a common experience people have with automobiles.

"If your car isn't working right, you often have to take it to a mechanic because cars are so complex now," he said. "They plug the car into a sensor and can see the problem quickly. If I did it, I'd have to guess and hope I get it right. That's how traditional breeding is, much of their work is challenging because they have to work with so many complex potential solutions. Now they'll have a schematic to eliminate a lot of that extensive effort."

Doing the science

To find the correct pathways, the research team used wild plants as well as plants changed in the major pathways of plant defense. The scientists would trigger an ATP response in a modified sample to trace the signal's path to the receptor, then reproduce that in the other samples. It was time-consuming science, with a big payoff, said WSU postdoctoral researcher, and lead author on the paper, Jeremy Jewell.

"It was like following a single noodle in a huge bowl full of them," Jewell said. "Extra-cellular ATP turns on defense responses partly through these major defense pathways, and partly independently of them, but all these strands work together. When we found new players in this immune pathway, it was a great feeling."

How ATP works

ATP is an energy molecule that is necessary for life to function, Tanaka said. It's very well researched and understood inside of cells. But ATP fundamentally changes when it is outside a cell in an organism.

"Extra-cellular ATP is a damage signal to the surrounding cells," Tanaka said. "ATP is only outside a cell when something is damaged, so it's a perfect trigger for immune responses."

The receptor that receives the damage signal ATP was found in 2014, but until now scientists didn't know how this signal caused an immune response in plants.

"Future plant breeding can now increase plant defense or resistance based on knowing these pathways," Gang said. "They can be bred to respond faster, or to not waste energy by turning on the entire immune system if only a specific defense is required. The potential for this is pretty incredible for helping plants and crops."
-end-
Funding support comes from the National Science Foundation (IOS-1557813).

Washington State University

Related Immune Response Articles:

How to boost immune response to vaccines in older people
Identifying interventions that improve vaccine efficacy in older persons is vital to deliver healthy ageing for an ageing population.
Unveiling how lymph nodes regulate immune response
The Hippo pathway keeps lymph nodes' development healthy. If impaired, lymph nodes become full of fat cells or fibrosis develops.
Early immune response may improve cancer immunotherapies
Researchers report a new mechanism for detecting foreign material during early immune responses.
Researchers decode the immune response to Ebola vaccine
The vaccine rVSV-EBOV is currently used in the fight against Ebola virus.
Immune response depends on mathematics of narrow escapes
The way immune cells pick friends from foes can be described by a classic maths puzzle known as the 'narrow escape problem'.
Signature of an ineffective immune response to cancer revealed
Our immune system is programmed to destroy cancer cells. Sometimes it has trouble slowing disease progression because it doesn't act quickly or strongly enough.
Putting the break on our immune system's response
Researchers have discovered how a tiny molecule known as miR-132 acts as a 'handbrake' on our immune system -- helping us fight infection.
Having stressed out ancestors improves immune response to stress
Having ancestors who were frequently exposed to stressors can improve one's own immune response to stressors, according to Penn State researchers.
Researchers discovered new immune response regulators
The research groups of Academy Professor Riitta Lahesmaa and Research Director Laura Elo from Turku Centre for Biotechnology have discovered new proteins that regulate T cells in the human immune system.
Blueprint for plant immune response found
Washington State University researchers have discovered the way plants respond to disease-causing organisms, and how they protect themselves, leading the way to potential breakthroughs in breeding resistance to diseases or pests.
More Immune Response News and Immune Response Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Clint Smith
The killing of George Floyd by a police officer has sparked massive protests nationwide. This hour, writer and scholar Clint Smith reflects on this moment, through conversation, letters, and poetry.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.