Biotech Updates

Rice can Borrow Stronger Immunity from Other Plants

April 6, 2016

Rice is equipped with an effective immune system that enables it to detect and fend off disease-causing microbes. But that built-in immunity can be boosted when the rice plant receives a receptor protein from a completely different plant species according to a new study led by UC Davis plant-disease experts.

Receptors are specialized proteins that can recognize molecular patterns associated with disease-causing microbes, including bacteria and fungi, at the beginning of an infection. These receptors are found on the surface of plant cells, where they play a key role in the plant's early warning system. Some of the receptors, however, occur only in certain groups of plant species.

Benjamin Schwessinger, a postdoctoral scholar at UC Davis, and colleagues transferred the gene for an immune receptor from Arabidopsis into rice. The rice plants that subsequently expressed this gene and produced the related immune receptor proteins were able to sense Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae, an important bacterial disease of rice.

This showed that receptors introduced to rice from Arabidopsis via genetic engineering were able to make use of the rice plants' built-in immune signaling mechanisms and cause the rice plants to launch a stronger defensive immune response against the invading bacteria.

For more information, read the article on the Public Library of Science.