Can plants suffer from autoimmunity? The term is generally reserved for organisms with an adaptive immune system, but one of the speakers last night at the Keystone meeting on plant signaling and immunity described a scenario that she called "the plant world version of autoimmunity." Farmers as well as plant researchers have long known that every once in a while, when two healthy plants are crossbred, the offspring (called F1) is inexplicably sickly - maybe its leaves are necrotic, or maybe it doesn't flower, or fails to grow. linkurl:Kirsten Bomblies,; a postdoc in the lab of Detlef Weigel of the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Tubingen, believes that's because those F1 plants happened to inherit a pair of incompatible alleles - each one is normal in itself, but the combination sends the immune system into overdrive. In her talk, Bomblies described experiments in 21 "sick" hybrid strains obtained from...

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