Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Biologists discover new pathway into plant cells

03.11.2005


Researchers at Oregon State University have made a major discovery in basic plant biology that may set the stage for profound advances in plant genetics or biotechnology.


Researchers at Oregon State University have made a major discovery in basic plant biology, using a pathogen of wheat to discover a new pathway into plants cells. This may allow important advances in biotechnology. This microscopic image shows a toxin in wheat cells and the toxin structure.



The scientists have identified for the first time a protein that can cross plant cell membranes, where it functions as a toxin to kill the cell. It had been known that viruses and bacteria can penetrate cell wall barriers and disrupt plant cells, but never before has a protein been found that could do this by itself.

When more research is done, this may provide a new tool to penetrate plant cells and possibly manipulate their behavior in some beneficial way - to grow faster, resist disease or increase yields.


The findings were published today in two articles in The Plant Cell, a professional journal.

Also of considerable interest is that the biological mechanism discovered here bears striking similarity to the way proteins can function in mammalian cells - scientists say they may have found a characteristic that has been preserved for more than 600 million years, when plants and animals diverged from a common ancestor on their separate evolutionary paths.

"This is a doorway into plant cells that we never knew existed," said Lynda Ciuffetti, an OSU professor of botany and plant pathology. "Viruses and bacteria have been known to bring proteins into cells, but this is just a protein by itself crossing the cell wall barrier without disrupting its integrity. This is a significant fundamental advance in our understanding of plant biology."

The research was done with a pathogenic fungus that causes tan spot of wheat, a costly plant disease that is found around the world, and in some places can cause crop losses ranging up to 50 percent. These fungi produce multiple toxins that attack wheat plants, reducing yields and ruining wheat used as seed. In the United States, it’s a particular problem in the Great Plains and Midwest. Ciuffetti has spent much of her career studying these "host-selective" toxins.

"Until now, we didn’t really know exactly how the protein produced by this fungus was causing disease, whether it was from inside or outside of the plant cells," said Viola Manning, an OSU faculty research assistant and co-author of both publications. "No one had ever shown before that a protein could move, without a pathogen’s assistance, from outside a plant cell to the inside. But in this case, the protein does penetrate the cell membrane and interacts with chloroplasts, ultimately leading to cell death."

The scientists said this mechanism probably will be found in other cells besides wheat, and with other proteins. And while it may lead ultimately to some way to help address this plant disease problem in wheat, the more important discovery is the new pathway into plant cells.

"We still don’t know exactly how the protein penetrates the cell, but it’s clear that it does," said Andrew Karplus, an OSU professor of biochemistry and biophysics. "And with work done by a graduate student, Ganapathy Sarma, we also now have a clear understanding of what the molecular structure of the toxin looks like. With continued research, we should not only be able to determine how the protein is getting into the cell, but also remove the toxic effect associated with it.

"What that would leave us with is a type of delivery vehicle, a completely new way to deliver compounds inside of a plant cell and target specific genes. This is a new and unprecedented insight into how plants can work."

The process of proteins getting inside of cells and affecting their behavior is common in animal cells, the scientists said. For instance, that’s how the AIDS virus causes its damage. But the same process had never before been shown to exist in plant cells, which have been evolving separately from animals for hundreds of millions of years.

With a new delivery mechanism such as this, applied research could be done either to help or harm plant cells - by increasing or controlling their growth, or introducing new characteristics.

The research was supported by the National Science Foundation and the National Research Initiative of the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

About OSU research: The Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics in the OSU College of Science does research on the biology of cancer, aging, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease), heart and spinal cord development, atherosclerosis, and many other major human health and agricultural issues. The Department of Botany and Plant Pathology leads university education and research efforts in plant disease, physiology, genetics, marine and aquatic botany, botanical taxonomy and other important fields.

Lynda Ciuffetti | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.science.oregonstate.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Toward a 'smart' patch that automatically delivers insulin when needed
18.01.2017 | American Chemical Society

nachricht 127 at one blow...
18.01.2017 | Stiftung Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig, Leibniz-Institut für Biodiversität der Tiere

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

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...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

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...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

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...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A big nano boost for solar cells

18.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Glass's off-kilter harmonies

18.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Toward a 'smart' patch that automatically delivers insulin when needed

18.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>