Seeking to catch an arms-race maneuver in action, researchers have uncovered new evidence to explain how bacteria in the process of infecting a plant can shift molecular gears by excising specific genes from its genome to overcome the host plants specific defenses.
Throughout evolution – in the wild and in crops cultivated by humans – plants have developed systems for resisting the attack of microbial pathogens, while these microbes themselves have depended on their ability to alter molecular attack strategies in order to flourish. In the new work, researchers have essentially caught one step of this arms race in action, and they have shed light on the molecular mechanisms employed by a bacterial pathogen to survive in the face of its host plants defenses. The research is reported by John Mansfield and colleagues at Imperial College London, the University of the West of England, and the University of Bath.
Studying interactions between strains of the halo-bright pathogen and bean plants, the researchers found that the pathogenic bacteria essentially kicks out a section of its genome when it senses that its presence has been detected by the plants defense system. Excising this so-called "genomic island" eliminates production of the bacterial protein detected by the plant and allows a more stealthy – and successful – invasion.
Heidi Hardman | EurekAlert!
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