DURHAM, N.C. -- In times of war, factories retool to support the needs of battle. Assembly lines change course from turning out car parts to machine guns, or from building washing machines to aircraft engines.
To hear Duke University professor Xinnian Dong tell it, plants can shift from peacetime to wartime production too.
Crops and other plants are often under attack from bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. When a plant senses a microbial invasion, it makes radical changes in the chemical soup of proteins -- the workhorse molecules of life -- inside its cells.
In recent years, Dong and her team have been piecing together just how they do it. In a new study published in the journal Cell, Dong and first author Jinlong Wang reveal the key components in plant cells that reprogram their protein-making machinery to fight disease.