Hormone Hijack


Belgian researchers have discovered how plant parasites like roundworms, manipulate a plant's hormones to steal food from it. When a roundworm infects a plant it penetrates the roots and invades the vascular bundles (nutrient and water transport system). The worm then injects a protein-containing substance into a vascular cell to make it produce food for itself. This plant cell, which can enlarge to the size of about 200 cells, is called the "feeding site". The study for the first time showed that the parasites knock out certain proteins to manipulate the transport of auxin which is a hormone, important for the plant's developmental processes. Auxin then regulates and develops the feeding sites. The findings, published January 16 in the journal PLoS Pathogens, will help scientists figure ways to develop infection-resistant plants.


Down To Earth, February 2009