Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Researchers discover a new link to fight billion-dollar threat to soybean production


MU scientists show that parasitic nematodes hijack vascular stem cell pathways to attack their hosts

Invisible to the naked eye, cyst nematodes are a major threat to agriculture, causing billions of dollars in global crop losses every year. A group of plant scientists, led by University of Missouri researchers, recently found one of the mechanisms cyst nematodes use to invade and drain life-sustaining nutrients from soybean plants. Understanding the molecular basis of interactions between plants and nematodes could lead to the development of new strategies to control these major agricultural pests and help feed a growing global population.

A nematode (the oblong object on the left) activates the vascular stem cell pathway in the developing nematode feeding site (syncytium) on a plant root.

Credit: Xiaoli Guo, Division of Plant Sciences and Bond Life Sciences Center, University of Missouri; College of Plant Science and Technology, Huazhong Agricultural University, Wuhan, China

Soybeans are a major component for two-thirds of the world's animal feed and more than half the edible oil consumed in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Cyst nematodes jeopardize the healthy production of this critical global food source by "hijacking" the soybean plants' biology.

"Cyst nematodes are one of the most economically devastating groups of plant-parasitic nematodes worldwide," said Melissa Goellner Mitchum, a researcher in the Bond Life Sciences Center and an associate professor in the Division of Plant Sciences at MU. "These parasites damage root systems by creating a unique feeding cell within the roots of their hosts and leeching nutrients out of the soybean plant. This can lead to stunting, wilting and yield loss for the plant. We wanted to explore the pathways and mechanisms cyst nematodes use to commandeer soybean plants."

About 15 years ago, Mitchum and colleagues unlocked clues into how nematodes use small chains of amino acids, or peptides, to feed on soybean roots.

Using next-generation sequencing technologies that were previously unavailable, Michael Gardner, a graduate research assistant, and Jianying Wang, a senior research associate in Mitchum's lab, made a remarkable new discovery -- nematodes possess the ability to produce a second type of peptide that can effectively "take over" plant stem cells that are used to create vital pathways for the delivery of nutrients throughout the plant. Researchers compared these peptides with those produced by plants and found that they were identical to the ones the plants use to maintain vascular stem cells, known as CLE-B peptides.

"Plants send out these chemical signals to its stem cells to begin various functions of growth, including the vascular pathway that plants use to transport nutrients," Mitchum said. "Advanced sequencing showed us that nematodes use identical peptides to activate the same process. This 'molecular mimicry' helps nematodes produce the feeding sites from which they drain plant nutrients."

To test their theory, Xiaoli Guo, a post-doctoral researcher in Mitchum's lab and first author of the study, synthesized the CLE-B nematode peptide and applied it to the vascular cells of Arabidopsis, a model plant system used in plant research. They found that the nematode peptides triggered a growth response in Arabidopsis much in the same way as the plants' own peptides affected development.

Next, the team "knocked out" the genes Arabidopsis plants use to signal to their own stem cells. Here, the nematodes didn't do as well because the parasites were unable to signal to the plant and the nematode's feeding site was compromised, Guo says.

"When a nematode attacks the root, it selects vascular stem cells that are located along the root," Mitchum said. "By knocking out that pathway, we reduced the size of the feeding site that nematodes use to control the plant. This is the first time we've been able to show that the nematode is modulating or controlling the vascular plant pathway. Understanding how plant-parasitic nematodes modulate host plants to their own benefit is a crucial step in helping to create pest-resistant plants. If we can block those peptides and the pathways nematodes use to overtake the soybean plant, then we can enhance resistance for this very valuable global food source."


The study "Identification of cyst nematode B-type CLE peptides and modulation of the vascular stem cell pathway for feeding cell formation," recently was published by PLOS Pathogens. This work was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (IOS-1456047), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (2012-67013-19345) and Huazhong Agricultural University Scientific and Technological Self-Innovation Foundation (Program No. 2016RC004). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funding agencies.

Editor's Note: For more on the story please see:

Media Contact

Jeff Sossamon


Jeff Sossamon | EurekAlert!

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth
23.03.2018 | Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

nachricht “How trees coexist” – new findings from biodiversity research published in Nature Communications
22.03.2018 | Technische Universität Dresden

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth

23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm

23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>