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Priming: fine-tuning of plant innate immunity

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Estrella Luna, Shakoor Ahmad, Yuhua Zhang, Toby Bruce, Ruth Gordon-Weeks, and Jurriaan Ton Rothamsted Research, Centre for Sustainable Pest and Disease Management, AL5 2JQ , Harpenden, UK.

Specific environmental stimuli can prime the plant immune system. Primed plants express a faster and stronger basal defence response upon attack by microbial pathogens or herbivorous insects. Previously, we found that priming is a cost-efficient defence strategy that improves plant fitness under conditions of disease pressure. Current work in our lab is focussed on the signalling pathways underpinning priming and ecological impacts of this evolutionary conserved defence strategy. We have identified a novel regulatory gene in the onset of chemically induced priming of Arabidopsis, which points to a signalling role for nucleotide compounds. Furthermore, we recently discovered that plants exposed to fitness-reducing disease pressure produce progeny that are primed for salicylic acid-dependent defence. This trans-generational resistance still occurred after an intervening generation of disease-free conditions, suggesting an epigenetic basis of the phenomenon. In addition to our Arabidopsis studies, we examine priming by herbivore-induced volatiles in maize. Recent progress suggests a within-plant signalling function of the aromatic volatile indole. This research furthermore pointed to an unexpected signalling role of indole-derived secondary metabolites in cereal defence.

This talk is part of the Plant Sciences Research Seminars series.

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