Biotech Updates

Structural Biology Clues to the Success of Plant Diseases

December 2, 2011

Researchers at the John Innes Centre in collaboration with scientists at the Sainsbury Laboratory and the University of East Anglia on the Norwich Research Park have reason to believe that they have uncovered some clues on why plant pathogenic organisms can successfully invade plants. They have discovered the common features of the most destructive plant pathogens belonging to the water mould family, the Phytophthora. These pathogens secrete protein molecule effectors that play around with plant defenses and overcome the resistance mechanisms.

The researchers found an area of strong structural similarity among the Phytophthora pathogens that affect pepper, the cucurbits, tomato and potato. They observed that there is an area of strong structural similarity of two effectors in these pathogens which they termed the W-Y domain. The WY-domain is present in at least 44% of known Phytophtora RXLR-type effector. The researchers propose that the "WY-domain gives the effector proteins a stable molecular core, around which rapid evolutionary events can happen that allow the organism greater flexibility to adapt to host plant defenses."

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