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Discovery of unique protein brings us a step closer insect-resistant crops


by Nagoya University
Plants face constant attack by diseases, insect swarms, and fungi, resulting in crop losses that threaten global food security. Discovering new ways to help the plant defend itself against attack is an enormous challenge for scientists.

Plants live in environments where they are constantly attacked by different creatures. When something attacks a plant, most plants have two pathways to defend themselves. The salicylic acid pathway defends against organisms that feed on living plants, such as fungi. Meanwhile, the jasmonic acid pathway defends against organisms that seek to kill the plant before they eat it, such as insects. The plant can only activate one of the pathways at a time. Defending itself from one type of attack makes it more vulnerable to the other. This is not good when plants live in environments where they are being attacked by many different creatures.

A recent breakthrough was made in an international collaboration led by Nagoya University. Associate Professor Mika Nomoto and Professor Yasuomi Tada at the Graduate School of Science identified a protein called NPR1, that helps plants decide which of the pathways to use. It simultaneously activates the salicylic acid pathway and suppresses the jasmonic acid pathway. The researchers published their findings in the online edition of Cell Reports.

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