Premature Assault?

Plants may trick bacteria into attacking before the microbial population reaches a critical size, allowing the plants to successfully defend the weak invasion.

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef Akst is managing editor of The Scientist, where she started as an intern in 2009 after receiving a master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses.

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DON MAYNARDUnable to move, plants must defend themselves against pathogens while staying in place. While they have a couple of strategies to kill off invaders, large numbers of pathogens can overwhelm the plant immune system. But if plants can trick bacteria into attacking too soon, before their population is big enough, plants may have a better chance of fighting back, according to a study published last month (January 5) in Science Signaling.

Tino Krell and colleagues from the Spanish National Research Council in Granada found that plants produce rosmarinic acid, which mimics a bacterial molecule that indicates the population density. The researchers hypothesize that the plants’ rosmarinic acid tricks bacteria into thinking their population is bigger than it actually is, prompting the microbes to invade too early, when the plant will be better able to fend them off.

“In vitro analysis showed that rosmarinic acid bound...

Hat tip: Science News


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