They might look weedy but plants know a thing or two about defence. When confronted by harmful bacteria, plants use sophisticated pattern recognition ‘software’ to seek and destroy. However some bacteria can bypass the system, weakening defences by releasing molecules known as ‘effectors’.
Professor Murray Grant and team from the University of Exeter have discovered that chloroplasts, the powerhouse behind photosynthesis, play an key role in plant defence. The team found that effectors produced by pesky pathogens damage chloroplasts and lead to molecular changes that allow bacteria to take hold. Pre-treating plants with molecules from microbes protect chloroplasts from bacterial effectors and the damage they cause.
Engineering intervention strategies to protect chloroplasts could help provide resistance for plants, and vital food crops at risk from infection.
In the images above, red coloured leaves have healthy chloroplasts. Images that are yellow, through to green, to blue represent leaves with increasingly damaged chloroplasts.