MU researchers discover protein to help plants fight diseases

Friday, December 9, 2011 | 2:36 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — MU scientists have found a protein that helps plants fight diseases and pathogens.

The researchers studied the weed Arabidopsis and discovered a protein within it called EDS1, also known as Enhanced Disease Susceptibility 1, which resists plant diseases and can help strengthen them against future pathogens.

Walter Gassman, an MU plant sciences professor and researcher at the Christopher S. Bond Life Sciences Center, said in a press release that the protein detects disease agents as they attack its host plant. Ultimately, this triggers an immune response.

Plants with the protein, such as the Arabidopsis, are resistant to infections, but the protein doesn't fight the infection or disease alone. Sentinels acting as plant immune receptors or sensors, guard the protein and trigger an alarm once it's under attack. The alarm results in a plant defense response.  

This protein could have applications for agriculture.

"If we can identify the actual targets in the plant, like EDS1, and manipulate these genes in key crops, we could extend the planting cycles for a longer period of time," Gassman said in the release.

When a plant lacks enough EDS1 or does not have the protein at all, a disease agent can attack and repress the plant's weak immune system long enough to spread and kill it.

Gassman said further study is needed to help researchers discover ways to add the protein to crops or strengthen the defense response of plants that already have the protein.

"We're still a long way from application in the field," he said. "However, this addition could ultimately produce more food."

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Michael Williams December 9, 2011 | 4:27 p.m.


Here is a excellent, and newsworthy, opportunity for you to educate a lot of folks about this thing called "science".

Plants have an immune response.

How many folks know that? Most folks would say, "How can that be? I understand I have one, but a plant?"

Sic a reporter on it.

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