April 6, 2009

Disease-resistant plants are study’s focus

U.S. researchers say their identification of a compound that primes a plant's immune system moves science closer to developing disease-resistant plants.

The Oak Ridge National Laboratory and University of Chicago scientists said they discovered azelaic acid has a role in priming the immunity response in Arabidopsis, a small flowering plant related to cabbage and mustard. That plant, commonly known as thale cress or mouse-ear cress, is widely used as a model organism for studying higher plants.

A member of the team of scientists, Tim Tschaplinski of ORNL, said that while the field is in its infancy and involves a very complex network of responses, he and his colleagues are excited about what may lie ahead.

Long term, this discovery may prove useful for preventing diseases in crops and other plants, and perhaps for generating plants that are more disease-resistant in the first place, said Tschaplinski,

The study that included University of Chicago Associate Professor Jean Greenberg, postdoctoral researcher Ho Won Jung, University of Minnesota Associate Professor Jane Glazebrook and graduate student Lin Wang appears in the journal Science.