Plants Reprogram Their Cells to Fight Invaders; Findings Could Help Scientists Bolster Crops’ Immune Systems Without Sacrificing Yield

In times of war, factories retool to support the needs of battle. Assembly lines change course from turning out car parts to machine guns, or from building washing machines to aircraft engines. To hear Duke University professor Xinnian Dong, PhD, tell it, plants can shift from peacetime to wartime production too. Crops and other plants are often under attack from bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. When a plant senses a microbial invasion, it makes radical changes in the chemical soup of proteins--the workhorse molecules of life--inside its cells. In recent years, Dr. Dong and her team have been piecing together just how the plants do this. In a new study published on August 18, 2022 in Cell, Dr. Dong and first author Jinlong Wang, PhD, reveal the key components in plant cells that reprogram their protein-making machinery to fight disease. Their full-access Cell article is titled “PABP/Purine-Rich-Motif As an Initiation Module for Cap-Independent Translation in Pattern-Triggered Immunity."

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