Scientists from Edinburgh University have found a gene that can enable plants to control the response to disease. These findings according to the scientists could pave the way towards adjustment of the action of the genes to amplify plant's ability to resist the diseases.
This amplification can further lead to the production of crop varieties that are more resistant. As per the data, plant diseases cater to around ten percent of crop losses in key varieties alone in the U.S., and it is also amongst the leading causes of crop wastage.
How plants fight infections
The team used a cress plant and Arabidopsis thaliana to study the mechanism of plant’s response to bacteria and viruses. Under the attack, the plants produce nitric oxide which triggers the response from the plant’s immune system.
Scientists thus studied the genes that were stimulated with the increase in the levels of nitric oxide. On analysis, they detected that a gene called as SRG1, which was earlier unknown, is triggered by the rise in the concentration of nitric oxide.
They also found out that the same gene gets activated during the plant infections caused by bacteria. Further studies on the gene SRG1 unveiled that this gene plays an active role in unleashing the plant's defense mechanism.
The gene SRG1 does this by restricting the activities of genes that restrains the immune response of plants. By making alterations in the action of the SRG1 gene, the researchers were able to provide proof that plants that contain a higher concentration of defense proteins created by the SRG1 gene were more resilient in combating infections.
The team also discovered that the regulation of the immune system is carried out by the compound nitric oxide, which ensures that the plant immune system does not over-react to the infections. An oversensitive immune system can lead to the loss of plants itself leading to dwarfism or other recessive traits, similar to the autoimmune diseases in humans that starts destroying its own body by attacking host cells.
Presence of similar mechanism in other species
Scientists at Edinburgh University hope to find common mechanisms in other species of the plant kingdom. These inventions are surely going to help them in understanding the basic activities that underline the regulation of the plant immune system.
These findings, however, have provided a connecting link between the immune mechanisms that initiate and inhibit the response of plant's immune system to diseases. Researchers are also hopeful that these mechanisms might be found in humans too and can aid in the suppression of different diseases.
The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.