In the long-term co-evolutionary arms race between plants and pathogens, plants tend to protect themselves from invasion while the pathogen tries to ruin these defences. A typical case study is the battle between stripe rust pathogen and wheat, attacker and defender. During the invasion process, the rust pathogens utilise their weapons (effectors) to bombard the wheat plants. When the plants sense the initial attack, they will build forts (R proteins) to defend against the invasions. As the battle rages on, the pathogen will update its weapons by secreting more effectors and the wheat plants will reinforce their fortresses by activating more R proteins.
Dr. Xiaoping Hu and his colleagues from Northwest A&F University of China identified that some wheat cultivars in China displayed durable resistance to the introduction of stripe rust infection and high temperatures. With the global warming caused by the greenhouse effect, genes derived from this kind of durable high-temperature resistance have better research and application prospects. His research group is keen to understand the molecular mechanisms of the decades-long war that has happening inside wheat plants infected with the stripe rust pathogen. In the latest finding, they found a molecular mechanism of the war occurring primarily in the apoplast, the first line of the arms race, between proteins from stripe rust and proteins from wheat. There were wheat spies within the attacker! PSTG_11208 is a spy secretly communicating with protein TaTLP1 in the apoplast, then TaTLP1 delivers the message to TaPR1 in order to prepare for the war. However, protein PstCEP1, a weapon of stripe rust, could catch the spy, PSTG_11208, in the apoplast and prevent it from passing information to TaTLP1. In addition, PstCEP1 could also invade the hinterland of cells to attack protein TaFd1.
The fundamental research of Dr. Xiaoping Hu’s group could eventually lead to illuminating the mechanisms of durable resistance of wheat to stripe rust. ‘On this basis, the development of wheat cultivars with broad-spectrum resistance will be more efficient and practical in the near future’ said Dr. Xiaoping Hu.
Xiyue Bao, Yangshan Hu, Yuxiang Li, Xianming Chen, Hongsheng Shang, Xiaoping Hu published this study in Molecular Plant Pathology Journal: