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Researchers discover a master regulator of plant immunity


by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology
The demonstration that a regulatory protein linked to stress responses in plants also serves as a master switch for anti-pathogen immunity could help breeders develop more pest-resistant and climate-resilient crops.

The KAUST-led discovery suggests that, rather than focusing on individual immune signals involved in plant defenses, agricultural scientists looking to implement sustainable crop protection strategies could simply focus their efforts on this one all-important protein.

"The identification of OXI1 as a single molecular switch of immunity offers a number of big advantages in molecular breeding," says study lead Heribert Hirt, a professor of plant science at KAUST.

Hirt's finding was nearly two decades in the making. In 2004, he and his colleagues first identified a gene called OXI1—short for oxidative signal-inducible 1 kinase—that was critical to plant responses in the face of environmental stresses.

Over the next 18 years, Hirt and others then connected OXI1 with various aspects of plant immunity and growth, but it was not entirely clear how the protein exerted its biological effects. And while scientists had detailed the ways in which three key immune-related metabolites—salicylic acid (SA), N-hydroxy pipecolic acid (NHP) and camalexin—contribute to pathogen defenses, their connec

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