When a pathogen attacks a plant, infection usually follows after the plant's immune system is compromised. A team of researchers at the University of California, Riverside focused on Phytophthora, the pathogen that triggered the Irish Famine of the 19th century by infecting potato plants, and deciphered how it succeeded in crippling the plant's immune system.
The genus Phytophthora contains many notorious pathogens of crops. Phytophthora pathogens cause worldwide losses of more than $6 billion each year on potato (Phytophthora infestans) and about $2 billion each year on soybean (Phytophthora sojae).
The researchers, led by Wenbo Ma, an associate professor of plant pathology and microbiology, focused their attention on a class of essential virulence proteins produced by a broad range of pathogens, including Phytophthora, called "effectors." The effectors are delivered to, and function only in, the cells of the host plants the pathogens attack. The researchers found that Phytophthora effectors blocked the RNA silencing pathways in their host plants (such as potato, tomato, and soybean), resulting first in a suppression of host immunity and thereafter in an increase in the plants' susceptibility to disease.
"Phytophthora has evolved a way to break the immunity of its host plants," Ma explained. "Its effectors are the first example of proteins produced by eukaryotic pathogens — nucleated single- or multi-cellular organisms — that promote infection by suppressing the host RNA silencing process. Our work shows that RNA silencing suppression is a common strategy used by a variety of pathogens — viruses, bacteria and Phytophthora — to cause disease, and shows, too, that RNA silencing is an important battleground during infection by pathogens across kingdoms."
Study results appeared online Feb. 3 in Nature Genetics.What is RNA silencing and what is its significance? RNA is made from DNA. Many RNAs are used to make proteins. However, these RNAs can be regulated by "small RNA" (snippets of RNA) that bind to them. The binding leads to suppression of gene expression. Known as RNA gene silencing, this suppression plays an important role in regulating plant growth and development. When RNA silencing is impaired by effectors, the plant is more susceptible to disease.
"Phytophthora effectors have a motif or signature — a specific protein code — that allows the proteins to be delivered into host cells," Ma said. "A similar motif is found in effectors of animal parasites, such as the malaria pathogen Plasmodium, suggesting an evolutionarily conserved means for delivering effectors that affect host immunity."
Next, her lab will work on extensively screening other pathogens and identifying their effectors' direct targets so that novel control strategies can be developed to manage the diseases the pathogens cause.
Ma was joined in the study by UC Riverside's Yongli Qiao, Lin Liu, Cristina Flores, James Wong, Jinxia Shi, Xianbing Wang, Xigang Liu, Qijun Xiang, Shushu Jiang, Howard S. Judelson and Xuemei Chen; Fuchun Zhang at Xinjiang University, China; and Qin Xiong and Yuanchao Wang at Nanjing Agricultural University, China.
The research was supported by a National Science Foundation grant to Ma and grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to Judelson and Chen.
In 2011, UCR received a $9 million USDA grant to research late blight, caused by Phytophthora infestans, that mainly attacks potatoes and tomatoes. Last year, UCR released avocado rootstocks that can help control Phytophthora root rot, a disease that has eliminated commercial avocado production in many areas of the world.
The University of California, Riverside is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus will open a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion. A broadcast studio with fiber cable to the AT&T Hollywood hub is available for live or taped interviews. UCR also has ISDN for radio interviews. To learn more, call (951) UCR-NEWS.
Iqbal Pittalwala | EurekAlert!
Pathogenic bacteria hitchhiking to North and Baltic Seas?
22.07.2016 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung
Unconventional quasiparticles predicted in conventional crystals
22.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemische Physik fester Stoffe
Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Ames Laboratory have discovered an unusual property of purple bronze that may point to new ways to achieve high temperature superconductivity.
While studying purple bronze, a molybdenum oxide, researchers discovered an unconventional charge density wave on its surface.
Munich Physicists have developed a novel electron microscope that can visualize electromagnetic fields oscillating at frequencies of billions of cycles per second.
Temporally varying electromagnetic fields are the driving force behind the whole of electronics. Their polarities can change at mind-bogglingly fast rates, and...
Breakup of continents with two speed: Continents initially stretch very slowly along the future splitting zone, but then move apart very quickly before the onset of rupture. The final speed can be up to 20 times faster than in the first, slow extension phase.phases
Present-day continents were shaped hundreds of millions of years ago as the supercontinent Pangaea broke apart. Derived from Pangaea’s main fragments Gondwana...
Scaffolding and specialised workers help with the delivery – Heidelberg biochemists gain new insights into biogenesis
A type of scaffolding on which specialised workers ply their trade helps in the manufacturing process of the two subunits from which the ribosome – the protein...
Scientists at the Helmholtz Zentrum München have developed a new mass spectrometry imaging method which, for the first time, makes it possible to analyze hundreds of metabolites in fixed tissue samples. Their findings, published in the journal Nature Protocols, explain the new access to metabolic information, which will offer previously unexploited potential for tissue-based research and molecular diagnostics.
In biomedical research, working with tissue samples is indispensable because it permits insights into the biological reality of patients, for example, in...
15.07.2016 | Event News
15.07.2016 | Event News
11.07.2016 | Event News
25.07.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
25.07.2016 | Materials Sciences
25.07.2016 | Materials Sciences