Possible new hope for crops battling parasitic infection

Jan 16, 2009

Scientists from Ghent University and VIB (The Flemisch Institute for Biotechnology) have demonstrated how nematodes, also known as roundworms, manipulate the transport of the plant hormone auxin in order to force the plant to produce food for them. Their findings, published January 16 in the open-access journal PLoS Pathogens, could open up new possibilities for the development of nematode-resistant plants.

Typical symptoms of a nematode infection in plants are withering, seriously retarded growth, and impaired development of flower and fruit; severely infected plants often do not survive the damage. Each year, plant-parasitic roundworms cause more than 80 billion euro in agricultural losses worldwide.

Some nematodes have developed an ingenious way of making a plant feed them. They penetrate the plant's roots and make their way to their host's vascular bundles, which are part of the plant's transport system for nutrients and water. The roundworms inject a protein cocktail into a single plant cell of the vascular bundle system, causing the plant cell to merge with neighboring cells and start producing food for the worm. This plant cell − which can become as large as 200 normal plant cells − is called the "nematode feeding site."

In this study, Wim Grunewald and his colleagues demonstrate that roundworms mislead the plant by disrupting its hormonal regulation. The plant hormone auxin, important for most plant developmental processes, accumulates at the site of infection. Later, when the feeding site needs to grow, auxin accumulates in the neighboring plant cells. Until now, scientists have not known how nematodes manipulate the transport of auxin. Grunewald's team studied the role of plant PIN proteins, which enable auxin transport, and show that nematodes knock out certain PIN proteins and activate others in order to establish and develop the nematode feeding sites.

This discovery advances our understanding of how nematodes feed themselves through plants, and it may lead to ways to thwart these worms in crops − such as by locally counteracting the nematodes' manipulation of auxin transport.

Citation: Grunewald W, Cannoot B, Friml J, Gheysen G (2009) Parasitic Nematodes Modulate PIN-Mediated Auxin Transport to Facilitate Infection. PLoS Pathog 5(1): e1000266. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1000266, dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1000266

Source: Public Library of Science

Explore further: Rope-chewing technique an easy way to screen monkeys for disease

Related Stories

Plant fertility—how hormones get around

May 26, 2015

Researchers at Tokyo Institute of Technology have identified a transporter protein at the heart of a number of plant processes associated with fertility and possibly aging.

Hormones that guide root growth rates revealed

Apr 09, 2015

A plant's roots grow and spread into the soil, taking up necessary water and minerals. The tip of a plant's root is a place of active cell division followed by cell elongation, with different zones dedicated ...

Recommended for you

Researchers discover new mechanism of DNA repair

9 hours ago

The DNA molecule is chemically unstable giving rise to DNA lesions of different nature. That is why DNA damage detection, signaling and repair, collectively known as the DNA damage response, are needed.

The math of shark skin

17 hours ago

"Sharks are almost perfectly evolved animals. We can learn a lot from studying them," says Emory mathematician Alessandro Veneziani.

Cuban, US scientists bond over big sharks

22 hours ago

Somewhere in the North Atlantic right now, a longfin mako shark—a cousin of the storied great white—is cruising around, oblivious to the yellow satellite tag on its dorsal fin.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.