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Crop Biotech Update

Immunity Gene Fusions Discovered in Plants

February 24, 2016

A study conducted by scientists from The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC) and The Sainsbury Laboratory has looked at immunity genes across flowering plants to uncover the molecular ‘traps' that plants use to detect pathogens.

A certain class of plant immune receptors has been identified to be highly informative about plant disease resistance. Nucleotide-binding Leucine-Rich Repeat receptors (NLRs) with additional integrated domains that act as ‘baits' for the pathogen have been identified in rice and thale cress, and experimentally shown to be involved in disease resistance. Dr. Ksenia Krasileva from TGAC and her TSL colleagues Professor Jonathan Jones and Dr. Panagiotis Sarris searched for these genes across plant species, including key UK crops: wheat, potatoes and rapeseed. The research group scanned 40 available plant genome sequences, including 19 crop species for the full spectrum of NLRs fused to other plant proteins. The group evaluated the diversity of such integrations of potential sensor domains across flowering plants, and additional manual analysis of wheat and brassicas validated a subset of fusions in wild and cultivated varieties.

"The latest breakthrough discovery in the evolutionary battle between plants and pathogens is that plant immune receptors carry additional built-in protein areas, which enable them to detect pathogens and activate defense. Our study revealed a great number of extraneous domains. These findings can help us obtain a better overview of the virulence strategies that pathogenic microbes use to promote susceptibility, said Dr. Sarris, first author of the study.

For more information, read the news release at the TGAC website.