Biotech Updates

Scientists Shed Light on Molecular Mechanisms of Bacterial Plant Disease

October 21, 2015

Plants are always surrounded by insects. However, insects bring disaster to the plants, in this case, certain species of leafhoppers transmit bacteria called phytoplasmas, which destroy the life cycle of the plants.

According to Prof. Dr. Günter Theißen of Friedrich Schiller University Jena in Germany, instead of blossoming, the afflicted plants only form vestigial leaf structures, and their sexual reproduction is affected. "These plants become the living dead. Eventually they only serve the spread of the bacteria," he pointed out. The scientists also call these plants 'zombies'. Prof. Theißen and his team have succeeded in understanding the molecular-biological reasons for this phenomenon. The researchers explain how parasites interfere with plant development in such a disastrous manner and inflict a 'zombie' existence on them.

One of the main culprits is a protein called SAP54, which comes from the bacteria and has a strong structural resemblance to proteins which form a regulatory complex inside the plant, allowing normal development of the blossom. The Jena scientists showed that SAP54 imitates the structure of certain MADS-domain-proteins in the infected plants, eventually leading to the degradation of MADS-domain-proteins, preventing the formation of petals and flower organs.

For more details, read the news release from Friedrich Schiller University Jena.