(Embargoed) CHAPEL HILL Scientists for the first time have identified a protein that plays a double-agent role in the war between plants and disease-causing bacteria.
The plant protein, called RIN4, interacts with invading pathogen molecules and a protein from within the plant cell itself, a protein in the plants disease resistance strategy. The discovery adds important new knowledge to how bacterial pathogens target a host plants molecular machinery to make it more hospitable, even beneficial, to its plundering invasion.
The new research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy and is reported in the March 22 issue of the journal Cell.
"This research will increase our understanding of how plant genes mediate resistance to pathogenic bacteria that cause disease and crop losses," says Sharman O'Neill, program director in NSF's division of integrative biology and neuroscience. "This information is likely to lead to novel approaches for pathogen control, and to the improvement of disease resistance in plants. The combination of genetics and biochemistry will allow a unique assault on a disease resistance signaling pathway," ONeill added.
This study is largely about how plants perceive pathogens, said senior study author Dr. Jeff Dangl, John N. Couch professor of biology, a member of the curriculum in genetics at the university, and an adjunct professor of microbiology and immunology at the School of Medicine. When we study the interaction between host and pathogen, we need to understand it from both sides: the pathogen side, including the targets it wants to hit and why, the weapons it uses, and, on the plant side, what guard molecules the host deploys.
Known internationally for his work in this area of research, Dangl pointed to biologically conserved similarities between some bacterial pathogens of animals -- E. coli, salmonella, shigela
Contact: Leslie H. Lang
University of North Carolina School of Medicine