Plant Protein Affects Energy, Photosynthesis, and Defense in Tobacco Leaves

Jenn Hoskins
14th May, 2024

Plant Protein Affects Energy, Photosynthesis, and Defense in Tobacco Leaves

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • The study was conducted by the Laimburg Research Centre to understand how the SAP11CaPm protein affects plant gene expression
  • SAP11CaPm protein causes significant changes in the expression of genes related to plant defense and development
  • The protein suppresses plant defense responses and alters hormone levels, aiding the pathogen's survival and spread
‘Candidatus Phytoplasma mali’ is a notorious plant pathogen responsible for apple proliferation disease, a significant issue in apple-growing regions in Europe. This pathogen manipulates its host plants through various effector proteins, causing severe developmental changes. A recent study conducted by the Laimburg Research Centre has focused on one such effector protein, SAP11CaPm, to understand its influence on the host plant's gene expression[1]. In this study, researchers investigated how the early expression of SAP11CaPm affects the transcriptional response in the host plant. To do this, they used Nicotiana occidentalis H.-M. Wheeler, a model plant, and induced the transient expression of SAP11CaPm through Agrobacterium infiltration. They then monitored changes in the plant's transcriptome over a period of five days post-infiltration. The findings of this study build upon previous research that has shown how phytoplasma effectors like SAP11 can manipulate plant hormone levels and development. For instance, it has been established that SAP11-like proteins bind to TCP transcription factors in apple trees, affecting phytohormone levels and leading to disease symptoms such as stem proliferations and flower retrogradation[2]. This study extends these findings by providing a detailed look at the transcriptional changes triggered by SAP11CaPm, offering deeper insights into the molecular mechanisms behind these symptoms. The methodology employed in this study involved the use of Agrobacterium-mediated transient expression, a common technique for studying gene function in plants. By infiltrating Nicotiana leaves with Agrobacterium carrying the SAP11CaPm gene, researchers were able to induce the expression of this effector protein and observe the resulting changes in gene expression. This approach allowed for a controlled and timely investigation of the plant's response to the effector protein. The transcriptional analysis revealed significant changes in the expression of multiple genes, particularly those involved in plant defense and development. This aligns with previous findings that phytoplasma effectors can manipulate plant hormone pathways and immune responses to facilitate their spread and survival[2][3]. For example, SAP11-like proteins have been shown to alter levels of jasmonates, salicylic acid, and abscisic acid, which are crucial for plant defense and stress responses[2]. Moreover, the study's findings on the interaction of SAP11CaPm with TCP transcription factors are consistent with earlier research that demonstrated how phytoplasma effectors could interact with host proteins to hijack cellular processes. A prior study identified a different phytoplasma effector, PM19_00185, which interacts with ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes, highlighting the diverse strategies these pathogens use to manipulate their hosts[4]. In summary, this study by the Laimburg Research Centre provides valuable insights into the early transcriptional responses of plants to the expression of the SAP11CaPm effector protein. By elucidating the molecular interactions and changes in gene expression induced by this effector, the research contributes to a better understanding of how ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma mali’ manipulates its host plants. This knowledge is crucial for developing strategies to mitigate the impact of apple proliferation disease and improve crop resilience against phytoplasma infections.

GeneticsBiochemPlant Science


Main Study

1) ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma mali’ SAP11-Like protein modulates expression of genes involved in energy production, photosynthesis, and defense in Nicotiana occidentalis leaves

Published 13th May, 2024

Related Studies

2) An effector of apple proliferation phytoplasma targets TCP transcription factors-a generalized virulence strategy of phytoplasma?

3) A multi-layered mechanistic modelling approach to understand how effector genes extend beyond phytoplasma to modulate plant hosts, insect vectors and the environment.

4) 'Candidatus Phytoplasma mali' Genome Encodes a Protein that Functions as an E3 Ubiquitin Ligase and Could Inhibit Plant Basal Defense.

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