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:

Discovering the early age immune response in foals
Researchers at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine have discovered a new method to measure tiny amounts of antibodies in foals, a finding described in the May 16 issue of PLOS ONE.
Nixing the cells that nix immune response against cancer
For first time, study characterizes uptick of myeloid-derived suppressor cells in the spleens of human cancer patients, paving the way for therapies directed against these cells that collude with cancer.
Jumbled chromosomes may dampen the immune response to tumors
How well a tumor responds to immunotherapy may depend in part on whether its chromosomes are intact or in a state of disarray, a new study reports.
Tailored organoid may help unravel immune response mystery
Cornell and Weill Cornell Medicine researchers report on the use of biomaterials-based organoids in an attempt to reproduce immune-system events and gain a better understanding of B cells.
Tweaking the immune response might be a key to combat neurodegeneration
Patients with Alzheimer's or other neurodegenerative diseases progressively loose neurons yet cannot build new ones.
More Immune Response News and Immune Response Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#534 Bacteria are Coming for Your OJ
What makes breakfast, breakfast? Well, according to every movie and TV show we've ever seen, a big glass of orange juice is basically required. But our morning grapefruit might be in danger. Why? Citrus greening, a bacteria carried by a bug, has infected 90% of the citrus groves in Florida. It's coming for your OJ. We'll talk with University of Maryland plant virologist Anne Simon about ways to stop the citrus killer, and with science writer and journalist Maryn McKenna about why throwing antibiotics at the problem is probably not the solution. Related links: A Review of the Citrus Greening...