Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Smart fungus disarms plant, animal and human immunity

Date:
August 20, 2010
Source:
Wageningen University and Research Centre
Summary:
Fungal and bacterial pathogens are well capable of infecting plants, animals and humans despite their immune systems. Fungi penetrate leafs, stalks and roots, or skin, intestines and lungs, to infect their hosts. Researchers have now discovered how this is possible. They found that the fungus secretes a protein that makes stray building blocks of the fungal cell wall invisible for the immune system of the plant. In this way infection remains unnoticed.

The fungus Cladosporium fulvum in action on a tomato leaf.
Credit: Image courtesy of Wageningen University and Research Centre

Fungal and bacterial pathogens are quite capable of infecting plants, animals and humans despite their immune systems. Fungi penetrate leafs, stalks and roots, or skin, intestines and lungs, to infect their hosts. Researchers from Wageningen UR (University & Research centre) discovered, together with Japanese colleagues, how this is possible. They found that the fungus secretes a protein that makes stray building blocks of the fungal cell wall invisible for the immune system of the plant, such that infection remains unnoticed.

Related Articles


They report their findings in the Aug. 20 issue of the journal Science.

Fungi prepare their attack, for instance on a tomato plant, rather well. Take for example the fungus Cladosporium fulvum that causes leaf mould on tomato plants. Once the fungus starts to infect, the tomato plant would recognize the fungus based on the presence of chitin fragments that are derived from the fungal cell wall. Chitin does not naturally occur in plants, but chitin fragments can always be found near fungi, just like cat hairs betray a cat's presence. The tomato immune system recognizes the chitin fragments as "non-self and unwanted" and alarms the immune system to combat the infection. So far so good.

However, Cladosporium fulvum as well as nearly all other fungi carry a secret weapon. A team of researchers under the supervision of plant pathologist Bart Thomma discovered that the fungus secretes the protein Ecp6 during host attack. Ecp6 is the code name for 'extracellular protein 6'. Ecp6 finds the chitin fragments that surround the fungus and binds them. This binding makes the chitin fragments invisible for the tomato plant, like a stealth-jet is invisible for radar, such that the immune system is not alarmed. As a result the plant gets diseased. Animal and human fungal pathogens also produce the protein, and are likely to disarm the immune system of their hosts in a similar way.

From experiments that the researchers performed to investigate the role of Ecp6, it appears that a fungus that does not produce Ecp6 is much less aggressive and less capable of causing disease in tomato plants.

Since not only Cladosporium but nearly all fungi, including pathogens of humans and animals, have Ecp6, the binding of chitin fragments appears a general strategy of fungi to evade the immune system of their hosts.

This knowledge may enable scientists to design novel methods to combat fungal diseases in agriculture (leaf mould, root and stalk rot, smut, wilt disease, apple scab, rust, tree cancer) and in health care (dandruff, athlete's foot, candida-infections, aspergillosis, etc.).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wageningen University and Research Centre. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Ronnie de Jonge, Peter van Esse, Anja Kombrink, Tomonori Shinya, Yoshitake Desaki, Ralph Bours, Sander van der Krol, Naoto Shibuya, Matthieu Joosten, and Bart Thomma. Conserved fungal LysM effector Ecp6 prevents chitin-triggered immunity in plants. Science, 2010; 329 (5994): 953-955 DOI: 10.1126/science.1190859

Cite This Page:

Wageningen University and Research Centre. "Smart fungus disarms plant, animal and human immunity." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 August 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100819141113.htm>.
Wageningen University and Research Centre. (2010, August 20). Smart fungus disarms plant, animal and human immunity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100819141113.htm
Wageningen University and Research Centre. "Smart fungus disarms plant, animal and human immunity." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100819141113.htm (accessed December 19, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, December 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 19, 2014) Millions of monarch butterflies begin to descend onto Mexico as part of their annual migration south. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Newsy (Dec. 19, 2014) A new study suggests a certain type of bird was able to sense a tornado outbreak that moved through the U.S. a day before it hit. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins