Scientists from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
collaborating with colleagues from Imperial College London and The Sainsbury
Laboratory have learned more about how plants defend themselves.
The plant cell wall protects them against various threats. When the cell
wall is damaged, the plant tries to minimize the damage and repairs it so
the plant is restored to its normal state. Plants respond differently
depending on the danger threatening it.
The researchers, led by NTNU Associate Professor Thorsten Hamann exposed
thale cress to various injuries to see how the plants would react. They
disconnected 27 different genes to observe the effects. Five of the genes
were important in maintaining the equilibrium of the cell walls. The
experiments provided a basis for identifying multiple enzymes (kinases) and
channel proteins involved in the plant's defense mechanisms. A number of
genes are involved in producing these substances.
The team's most interesting finding seems to be that two defense systems can
act as a kind of backup for each other. Hamann said that when they blocked
the plants' immune response, the mechanisms that maintain balance in the
cell walls partially compensate for the blockage, and became a kind of
reserve defense system.