Scientists have found the gene that sends a signal through plant immune systems, saying, in effect: "Take two aspirin and call out the troops – were under attack!"
Discovery of the salicylic acid-binding protein 2 (SABP2) gene, by scientists at Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research (BTI) at Cornell University, is being called an important step toward new strategies to boost plants natural defenses against disease and for reducing the need for agricultural pesticides.
Salicylic acid, the chemical compound found naturally in most plants (as well as in the most-used medication, aspirin), is a plant hormone produced at elevated levels in response to attack by microbial pathogens. According to a report on the Web today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS Early Edition, week of Dec. 7, 2003) by BTIs Dhirendra Kumar and Daniel F. Klessig, the aspirin-like hormone is perceived by the SABP2 protein and a message is transmitted, via a lipid-based signal, to activate the plants defense arsenal. Says Klessig, "Now that we know a key signaling protein in plant immune systems, we can work on ways to enhance the signal and help plants fight disease without using potentially harmful pesticides."
Roger Segelken | EurekAlert!
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