Mildew infections not only cause unsightly vegetable patches, they can also result in extensive crop failure. Interestingly, the processes involved in infections with this garden pest are similar to those involved in fertilisation. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne and the University of Zurich have identified two proteins in the model plant species Arabidopsis thaliana that are necessary for both fertilisation and infection with powdery mildew. This explains why mildew-resistant plants, in which these genes are mutated, are infertile. (Science, Vol 330, p 968-971)
Thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana) plants with powdery mildew infection. The white coating on the infected leaves, which originates from the mycelium on the leaf surface, is a typical feature of mildew infection. Image: Ralph Panstruga
Pollen tubes and hyphae, the filamentous structures of which fungi are formed, not only look very similar, they also require similar proteins. The two proteins in question, which have just been discovered, are named after the Etruscan fertility goddesses Feronia and Nortia. The scientists discovered that these proteins are both beneficial and harmful to plants. They link the capacity for seed formation with the absence of resistance to mildew infection.
Feronia signals to the pollen tube, which germinates from the pollen, that it has reached its destination and that it is time to release the male gametes. The protein is also formed in the leaves, however, and provides mildew with access to the plant. For the latter to become resistant to the intruder, both the maternal and paternal copies of the feronia gene must be defective. If the plant lacks the feronia protein, however, the pollen tube does not stop growing at the entrance to the embryo sac but continues to penetrate into the female part of the flower and does not trigger the release of sperm cells. As a result, fertilisation does not take place and an embryo does not develop.
The protein Nortia is also involved in fertilisation; however, it does not occur in the leaves. A protein known as MLO, which is closely related to Nortia, is found there instead. MLO makes plants, e.g. barley, in which Ralph Panstruga discovered the MLO gene a few years ago, prone to mildew. However, they only become resistant if both copies of the MLO gene are mutated. Because Arabidopsis has three MLO genes that play a role in susceptibility to mildew, in this plant, six copies must become defunct before it becomes resistant to mildew. Various other genes exist, however, that also cause resistance to fungal infections in plants.
Resistant or fertile
Feronia and Nortia are formed by the helper cells of the embryo sac. They bring about the fusion of the gametes in the ovary. Feronia and MLO in the leaves enable mildew to penetrate into the plant. "This dual function indicates why evolution has not yet succeeded in blocking this point of access to mildew. It would clearly be very difficult to decouple these two functions. Therefore, the alternatives are: resistant and infertile, or vulnerable and fertile," says Ralph Panstruga from the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research.
Original work:Sharon A. Kessler, Hiroko Shimosato-Asano, Nana F. Keinath, Samuel E. Wuest, Gwyneth Ingram, Ralph Panstruga and Ueli Grossniklaus
Barbara Abrell | EurekAlert!
Not of Divided Mind
19.01.2017 | Hertie-Institut für klinische Hirnforschung (HIH)
CRISPR meets single-cell sequencing in new screening method
19.01.2017 | CeMM Forschungszentrum für Molekulare Medizin der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
19.01.2017 | Earth Sciences
19.01.2017 | Life Sciences
19.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy