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.