Crop Biotech Update

New Insights on the Molecular Basis of Plant Immune Response

February 19, 2010

A new mechanism of immune system signaling in plants has been discovered by researchers at the Texas A&M University. Both plants and animals react to microbials by first recognizing them as foreign and then launching cascades of immune responses to fend off the attack. It has been known that calcium ions are used as a kind of messenger in this signaling process to activate cellular proteins. But exactly how calcium ions were sensed and relayed in the process was a mystery.

Using the model plant Arabidopsis, Texas A&M researchers led by Ping He found four calcium-dependent enzymes (calcium kinases) that are critical to plants' immune system response. All four enzymes are involved in the plant cells' synthesizing defense mechanisms such as peptides and other metabolites to fight microbial threats. 

"The results clearly suggested that specific calcium dependent processes are central regulators in integrating multiple signaling pathways," He said. "The identified calcium kinases (enzymes) have great potential to improve plant resistance to multiple pathogens, including bacteria, fungi and phytophthora."

The study published by Nature is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature08794 For more information, read http://agnews.tamu.edu/showstory.php?id=1758