MSU researcher reveals atomic-level secrets of plant defense

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Sheng Yang He, MSU Distinguished Professor in the MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory (view larger image)

New research in the current issue of Nature, however, has revealed the molecular secrets of plants’ defense mechanisms at the atomic level. The study, led by Michigan State University (MSU) and Van Andel Research Institute,focuses on the plant hormone jasmonate and its interaction with three key proteins. The findings could help scientists develop dream crops that are better equipped to fend off pests, diseases and future challenges created by fluctuating climate.

“Our study focused on three plant proteins, MYC, JAZ and MED25, which are key regulators of jasmonate signaling,” said Sheng Yang He, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute-Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Plant Biology Investigator and an MSU Distinguished Professor in the MSU-Department of Energy Plant Research Laboratory. “A thorough understanding of how plants grow and defend themselves could lead to the design of a new generation of crops that have increased tolerance to diverse stresses and produce higher yields.”

For the last decade, scientists have attempted to unravel the mystery of the sophisticated ways plants maintain their defenses while protecting their ability to grow. By revealing the structures of the jasmonate signaling complexes, researchers can now see how this crucial hormone pathway is governed, said He, who led the study with Karsten Melcher and Eric Xu of Van Andel Research Institute.

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