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TUM researchers discover a new switch in resistance to plant diseases
Date:7/12/2011

membranes, provides a gateway for attack: RACB fosters the increase in cell surface while the mildew is invading, thereby leaving the plant cell intact while still supporting the fungus. Hckelhoven's team was able to demonstrate that the plant becomes less susceptible to powdery mildew when the protein is missing. Hckelhoven explains: "That is how the fungus benefits from this barley protein. RACB makes it easier for powdery mildew to push its haustoria, or feeding organs, into the attacked cell, to then take control of the barley cell." The scientists suspect that the fungus manages to take control of the plant's signal chain from outside remotely, so to speak to open the door to the plant's nutrients.

The TUM researchers showed that barley is not entirely defenseless against this trick: MAGAP1 can effectively prevent such attacks from outside. This counterpart protein is normally found at the cytoskeleton of the plant cell, a dynamic network of protein fibers that is responsible, among other things, for reinforcing the cell wall to prevent fungal invasions. During an attack MAGAP1 migrates to the cell surface membrane where it then switches off the susceptibility factor RACB. This hinders the increase in cell surface, which the fungus needs to penetrate into the cell. The resilient barley cell may use this mechanism to slam the door in the face of powdery mildew.

The Chair of Pythopathology primarily does basic research. The scientists though, who are also members of the Hans Eisenmann Center of Agricultural Science at the TUM, had farmers in mind even at this early stage. "With a better understanding of the cause of diseases we hope, in the midterm, to find innovative approaches to maintaining the health of crops and grains by enhancing their immunity," says Prof. Hckelhoven.


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Contact: Jana Bodicky
bodicky@zv.tum.de
49-816-171-5403
Technische Universitaet Muenchen
Source:Eurekalert

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