Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Wildflower ‘armors’ itself against disease

Date:
September 14, 2010
Source:
University of Oxford
Summary:
An unusual wildflower that accumulates metals in its leaves has been found to use them as a kind of 'armor' against bacterial infection. Alpine pennycress is a small plant in the mustard family that grows on metal-rich soils scattered around Britain and Europe, such as the sites of former mine workings. The plant is known to accumulate zinc, nickel and cadmium to very high concentrations in its leaves, but why it should do this has remained a mystery.

High zinc concentrations suppress disease symptoms in Thlaspi caerulescens. A. T. caerulescens plants growing on 10 M zinc during an outbreak of mildew (Erysiphe sp.) in the glasshouse. B. T. caerulescens plants growing on 300 M zinc during the same outbreak of mildew in the glasshouse. C. T. caerulescens plants were grown for 10 weeks on nutrient solution containing 0.04, 10, 30, or 300 M ZnSO4. Leaves were infiltrated with P. syringae pv. maculicola M4 suspended in 10 mM MgCl2 at 108 cfu/ml and photographed 96 hours after inoculation. Scale bars represent 10 mm.
Credit: Fones et al.; doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1001093.g004

An unusual wildflower that accumulates metals in its leaves has been found to use them as a kind of 'armour' against bacterial infection.

Alpine pennycress (Thlaspi caerulescens) is a small plant in the mustard family that grows on metal-rich soils scattered around Britain and Europe, such as the sites of former mine workings. The plant is known to accumulate zinc, nickel and cadmium to very high concentrations in its leaves, but why it should do this has remained a mystery.

Now scientists from Oxford University have shown that when Thlaspi plants accumulate metals in their leaves they become resistant to attack by the bacterium Pseudomonas syringae pv. maculicola. They report their findings in the journal PLoS Pathogens.

'Our results demonstrate that these plants are exploiting their metal-rich environment to armour themselves against disease,' said Dr Gail Preston of Oxford University's Department of Plant Sciences, co-author of the report. 'What we've found is a direct link between these high metal concentrations and resistance to bacterial infection.'

Helen Fones, the graduate student who carried out the experimental work, cultivated Thlaspi plants on progressively higher concentrations of zinc, nickel and cadmium and showed that all three metals were able to defend the plant against the pathogenic bacterium. By studying diverse strains of the bacterium, she was able to demonstrate a close relationship between the ability of bacteria to grow in the presence of high concentrations of metal and their ability to infect the plants.

'Previously, it has been difficult to explain why Thlaspi plants should accumulate such high concentrations of potentially toxic metals,' said Professor Andrew Smith of Oxford's Department of Plant Sciences, co-supervisor of the research. 'Our findings provide good evidence that, by accumulating metals, these plants benefit from enhanced protection against enemies such as pathogenic microorganisms and herbivores.'

The researchers also showed that bacteria surviving on Thlaspi plants on the site of a former lead-zinc mine in Wales had a higher tolerance for zinc than bacteria isolated from plants growing on normal soils. This indicates that both the plant and its pathogens show evidence of local adaptation to survival in metal-rich environments, and that pathogens can adapt to overcome plant defences based on metals. Dr Preston said: 'heavy metals may be part of an evolutionary 'arms race' between plants and the microorganisms that try to colonise them.'


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Fones et al. Metal Hyperaccumulation Armors Plants against Disease. PLoS Pathogens, 2010; 6 (9): e1001093 DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1001093

Cite This Page:

University of Oxford. "Wildflower ‘armors’ itself against disease." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 September 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100912205245.htm>.
University of Oxford. (2010, September 14). Wildflower ‘armors’ itself against disease. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100912205245.htm
University of Oxford. "Wildflower ‘armors’ itself against disease." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100912205245.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Newsy (July 28, 2014) The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs struck at the worst time for them. A new study says that if it hit earlier or later, they might've survived. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Newsy (July 27, 2014) The satellite is back under ground control after a tense few days, but with a gecko sex experiment on board, the media just couldn't help themselves. Video provided by Newsy
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:
from the past week

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