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Research Team Analyze How Plants Isolate Themselves from Bacteria
Wednesday, 2015/06/10 | 08:24:07

In the presence of harmful bacteria, plants respond quickly by closing the pores on their leaves which serve as loopholes for pathogens. A research team from the University of Würzburg analyzed this process, using the bacterial protein flagellin.


Flagellin was injected into the leaves of Arabidopsis, which responded quickly. Around 15 minutes after the injection, the plants start to close their stomata, blocking the entry path of bacteria. The flagellin develops its effect on the guard cells, limiting the plant stomata. The Würzburg research team, together with another team from Estonia, found that flagellin affects the guard cells through the OST1 enzyme, and activates the ion channels SLAC1 and SLAH3. As a result, the guard cells go limp and the pores close.


The research team also found that the enzyme and the two ion channels are also contributors when plants close their pores in the event of dryness. They state that dryness and bacterial pathogens activate the same signal path in plants. In plant cultivation, this new finding could be used to catch two birds with one stone. Professor Rainer Hedrich from the University of Würzburg said, "Cultivated plants with improved OST1 enzymes may at the same time be more resistant against dryness and against bacteria. For farming, this is an exciting perspective, because dryness and pests are among the main factors that contribute to worldwide crop losses."


For more information about this research, read the news release at the University of Würzburg website.


Figure: Bacteria use open pores in the leaves as loopholes in order to get into the inside of the leave (A). If the plant notices the bacterial flagellin, the OST1 enzyme activates the ion channels SLAC1 and SLAH3 (right). The pores close and a further penetration of the bacteria is inhibited. (Graphics: Rob Roelfsema)

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