Researchers identify gene involved in plant defences against insects and pathogen

Researchers reporting in the May 23 issue of the Cell Press journal Molecular Cell report they have discovered a gene in the jasmonate pathway that controls plant defenses but does not play a detectable role in plant development.

An account of the study is given here at EurekaAlert, a vehicle of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The post explains that plants can’t swat a bug or run away from one, but that doesn’t mean that plants can’t fight back.

Plants have evolved unique and sophisticated immune systems to defend themselves against insects and pathogens. Plant hormones called jasmonates play an important role in this defense, but jasmonates have been found to also be important for plant growth.

The senior author is Dr. Daoxin Xie of Tsinghua University in Beijing.

He and his colleagues performed genetic screening tests in plants to silence different genes in the jasmonate pathway. The experiments revealed that silencing the JAV1 gene significantly enhanced jasmonate-regulated defense responses against pathogens and insects but did not severely alter jasmonate-mediated developmental processes.

The team also found that in normal plants, jasmonates, which accumulate following an attack by insects or pathogens, trigger the degradation of the protein encoded by the JAV1 gene.

Without the JAV1 protein to keep them in check, other regulators are free to turn on immune response genes that rev up the immune system.

“These findings have provided an insight into the molecular mechanism by which plants integrate jasmonate signals to protect themselves from insect attack and pathogen infection,” the authors write.

Dr Xie said the findings may be used to develop a novel strategy to engineer dual plant resistances against both insects and pathogens in the agricultural industry by manipulating the jasmonate signaling pathway without negatively affecting plant growth.

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