Friday 2nd November 2018, 3:00pm
Discovery of a gene that helps plants control their response to disease could aid efforts to develop crops that are resistant to infection, research suggests.
The findings could lead to ways to fine-tune the gene’s activity to boost disease resistance, pointing towards more resilient crop breeds or new treatments for infections.
It could help curb crop losses incurred by plant diseases. These are the leading cause of crop losses worldwide, accounting for 10 per cent of lost produce in key varieties.
Edinburgh scientists studied how, when plants are under attack from bacteria or viruses, they produce tiny amounts of a gas known as nitric oxide.This gas accumulates in plant cells and triggers a response from the plant’s immune system. Researchers used a common cress plant, Arabidopsis thaliana, to study the genes that were triggered as nitric oxide levels rose.They found that a previously unknown gene – called SRG1 – is rapidly activated by nitric oxide and is also triggered during bacterial infection.
An overactive immune system damages plants and stunts their growth, in the same way that auto-immune diseases in people cause the immune system to attack the body.
Common mechanismResearchers say that similar mechanisms, are likely to be found in many other species, and their findings could enable insights into fundamental processes that underlie immune regulation.The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, was funded by the BBSRC and the National Natural Science Foundation of China.
"Our findings provide a missing link between mechanisms that activate and suppress the plant’s response to disease. We were surprised to see this might be common to humans too."Professor Gary Loake, School of Biological Sciences
Source: University of Edinburgh