The plant on the left is a normal laboratory test plant Arabidopsis. The plant on the right doesn’t have the gene BIK1, which helps fight off Botrytis cinerea, a pathogen that causes the gray mold disease on flowers, fruits and vegetables. Tesfaye Mengiste, a Purdue plant molecular biologist, discovered the gene and that mutant plants without it have curly leaves and shorter primary roots but more root hairs, as shown in the bottom photo. (Photos courtesy of Tesfaye Mengiste laboratory)
A single gene apparently thwarts a disease-causing invader that creates a fuzzy gray coating on flowers, fruits and vegetables. But the same gene provides access to a different type of pathogen.
A Purdue University plant molecular biologist and his collaborators in Austria and North Carolina identified the gene that helps plants recognize pathogens and also triggers a defense against disease. The gene and its defense mechanisms are similar to an immunity pathway found in people and in the laboratory research insect, the fruit fly.
As Botrytis cinerea, a pathogen that makes strawberries gray and fuzzy, tries to invade a plant, the gene BIK1 recognizes the pathogen and sets off a defensive reaction. Botrytis is a type of pathogen that can infect and obtain nutrients from dead cells on a plant and actually secretes toxic substances into plant tissue in order to gain entry. Another type of pathogen, called a biotroph, must feed on live plant cells. As a strategy to contain a pathogen, plants actually kill their own cells at the site where a biotrophic pathogen is attempting to invade.
Susan A. Steeves | EurekAlert!
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