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Plant science research paves the way for deeper understanding of how the plant immune system functions by Donald Danforth Plant Science Center


Researchers in the laboratory of Tessa Burch-Smith, Ph.D. at the Danforth Plant Science Center and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, are conducting pioneering work to discover how plants transmit information, important molecules, and viruses between cells.

In a recent study they demonstrated how plasmodesmata (PD)—structures that connect neighboring cells in leaves and other organs—are controlled by deposition of callose (a carbohydrate polymer) when plants are responding to infection. Their research compared different methods to rigorously quantify callose accumulation around the microscopic PD channels and paves the way for a deeper understanding of how the plant immune system works.

Results of their study were recently published in "Comparing methods for detection and quantification of plasmodesmal callose in Nicotiana benthamiana leaves," in the journal Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions..

Callose, a polymer made of glucose molecules, is essential for regulating intercellular trafficking via plasmodesmata (PD). Pathogens manipulate PD-localized proteins to enable intercellular trafficking by removing callose at PD or, conversely, by increasing callose accumulation at PD to limit intercellular trafficking during infection.


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