July 7, 2009

Plant proteins block invading microbes

U.S. and Danish scientists say they've identified proteins that prevent bacteria from infecting a plant's leaves.

The researchers at the University of Copenhagen, the University of California-Davis and UC-Berkeley said identifying the proteins will likely find application in better protecting agricultural crops and horticultural plants against diseases.

The ability of a plant's immune system to recognize disease-causing microorganisms is critical to the plant's survival and productivity, said Gitta Coaker, a UC-Davis plant pathologist and lead author of the research. In this study, we identified a complex of proteins in the common research plant Arabidopsis that appear to play important roles in the biochemical mechanisms that enable plants to recognize and block out invading bacteria,

During the last 20 years, scientists have identified a number of proteins that are important for regulating the plant immune system, but Coaker said scientists still do not have a good sense of what protein complexes these proteins belong to and how they signal to confer disease resistance.

Our ability to purify an immune protein complex will serve as a starting point to understand how these proteins signal in the plant, Coaker said. A greater understanding of how these proteins function is fundamental knowledge that can be applied to prevent plant disease.

The study appeared in the June 29 online edition of the Public Library of Science Biology.