Plant immune system riddle solved through latest research

Scientists have long been looking for an answer to one of the key questions about plant immune system – how do plants build resilience? Finally an international research team led by the University of Göttingen have managed to find the answer by showing a relation between a relatively unknown gene and resistance to pathogens. The results of the study were published in the journal The Plant Cell.

Scientists from “PRoTECT” – Plant Responses To Eliminate Critical Threats – investigated the molecular mechanisms of the immune system of a small flowering plant known as thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana). PRoTECT is an International Research Training Group (IRTG) founded in 2016 with the University of Göttingen and the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

The aim of the study was to identify and describe a specific gene of a particularly disease-resistant plant. The team observed that plants that do not possess this previously little known gene strongly accumulate active acids. In addition, these plants show a significantly increased resistance to pathogens. However, this resistance is accompanied by extremely reduced growth.

One of the researchers said that they have been able to decipher the molecular connection between the gene product and the inactivation of the acids during normal plant growth. Understanding this interaction provides scientists with a promising approach to improving the natural resistance of crops.

“The basic results can be used to help breeders isolate less susceptible plants,” says Lennart Mohnike, first author of the study. “This offers scientists an important way to increase food security and could lead to reduced pesticide use.”