by University of Maryland
Plants have a unique ability to safeguard themselves against pathogens by closing their pores—but until now, no one knew quite how they did it. Scientists have known that a flood of calcium into the cells surrounding the pores triggers them to close, but how the calcium entered the cells was unclear.
A new study by an international team including University of Maryland scientists reveals that a protein called OSCA1.3 forms a channel that leaks calcium into the cells surrounding a plant's pores, and they determined that a known immune system protein triggers the process.
The findings are a major step toward understanding the defense mechanisms plants use to resist infection, which could eventually lead to healthier, more resistant and more productive crops. The research paper was published on August 26, 2020 in the journal Nature.
"This is a major advance, because a substantial part of the world's food generated by agriculture is lost to pathogens, and we now know the molecular mechanism behind one of the first and most relevant signals for plant immune response to pathogens—the calcium burst after infection," said José Feijó, a professor of cell biology and molecular genetics at UMD and co-author of the study. "Finding the mechanism associated with this calcium channel allows further research into its regulation, which will improve our understanding of the way in which the channel activity modulates and, eventually, boosts the immune reaction of plants to pathogens."