Keep it simple, keep it safe
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The immune systems of plants detect bacteria by sensing relatively simple molecules in their membranes rather than the more complex molecules researchers had anticipated. This improved understanding of how plants recognize potential pathogens could help guide breeding programs to produce plants with stronger immune responses.
Earlier work by researchers at the Technical University of Munich had identified a receptor, LORE, which plants use to recognize bacterial fatty acids and activate their immune response.
To better understand how the receptor works, the team tried testing its activity when presented with a purified dose of its putative targets, long, complex molecules known as lipopolysaccharides. These elicited no response. Instead, the researchers found that LORE responds only to simpler, medium-length molecules known as 3-hydroxy fatty acids.
These simpler molecules are ubiquitous in bacteria and are vital to many processes, making them an ideal target to recognize.
- Science 364, 178–181 (2019). doi: 10.1126/science.aau1279