Sunday, April 16, 2017

Deciphering plant immunity against parasites

Nematodes are known to have a parasitic relationship with important agricultural crops such as wheat, soybeans, and bananas.  The nematodes bore into the plants and withdraw water and nutrients from them.  This process damages the plant and can cause root and shoot structural damage, as well as leave the plant susceptible for further infection from other pathogens.  The plants however, may be able to prevent this without the use of pesticides.  The plant thale cress was found to have a specific gene, NILR1, that can help the plant sense the presence of a nematode and therefore turn on immune responses to protect itself.  This gene was shown to be conserved among numerous crop plants, and although other genes have been shown to provide resistance to nematodes, this one does so on a much larger scale.  This gene is thought to be turned on by a specific molecule possessed by the nematodes, although this exact molecule has yet to be identified.  The discovery of this gene opens up many possibilities for sustainable farming, including specific breeding to pass the gene along to other plants.  This could be vital in the future because nematodes have been known to decrease certain crop yields be over ten percent.  

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