Archive for November 2011
Fungal diseases in plants cause huge economic problems for farmers worldwide, either by reducing crop yield or by killing plants outright. These disease-causing fungi produce an array of compounds, known as ‘virulence factors’ that they use to breach plant defences. The two are locked in a constant arms race, with the plant trying to produce defences that let it stay one step ahead of the pathogen. This is often described as the Red Queen Hypothesis.
A new paper by Djamei et al. has revealed the nature of one of the virulence factors of Ustilago maydis, the fungal agent that causes maize smut. U. maydis requires live plants to survive, secreting many protein effectors that suppress the plant’s defence response and alter its metabolic pathways to suit the fungus. Most of these proteins are of unknown function.
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