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Crop Biotech Update

How do Plants Fight Bacterial Infection?

March 6, 2019

A research team at University of California, Riverside (UCR) led by plant pathologist Hailing Jin has identified a regulatory, genetic mechanism in plants that could help fight bacterial infection.

Using Arabidopsis thaliana, Jin's research team found that Argonaute protein, a major core protein in the RNA interference machinery, is controlled by "post-translational modification," a process that occurs during bacterial infection. This process controls the level of Argonaute protein and its associated small RNAs.

In normal conditions, the Argonaute protein and its associated small RNAs are well controlled by arginine methylation, a type of post-translational modification of the Argonaute protein. This regulates the Argonaute protein and prevents it and the associated small RNAs from accumulating to high levels, which allows plants to save energy for growth.

During bacterial infection, however, arginine methylation of the Argonaute protein is suppressed, leading to the accumulation of the protein and its associated small RNAs that contribute to plant immunity. Together, these two changes allow the plant to both survive and defend itself.

For more details, read the UCR news release.