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"Bacterial Bouncers" -- The Discovery Files

The Discovery Files
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A team of researchers in Denmark, at the University of California, Davis, and at UC Berkeley have identified a group of plant proteins that "shut the door" on bacteria that would otherwise infect the plant's leaves. The findings provide a better understanding of plants' immune systems and will likely find application in better protecting crops and horticultural plants against diseases.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

(SOUND EFFECT: outside of nightclub) Bacterial Bouncers. Uh, It's Okay, I'm With the Band.

I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files -- new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

(SOUND EFFECT: jungle) If you're a plant, it's a jungle out there. You may not go looking for trouble, but bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms are looking for you.

Researchers in Denmark, the University of California, Davis and UC Berkeley have made a new discovery that brings us closer to understanding how a plant's immune system really works -- and perhaps how to better protect plants from disease.

(SOUND EFFECT: factory; hardhat area) Alright, in plant security you basically got two lines of defense: the proteins outside the plant's cell walls that size up intruders (SOUND EFFECT: bouncer: "if you're not on the list, you're not gettin' in...") and the others who spot invading microbes from within the cell walls (SOUND EFFECT: intruder alarm sounds).

Up to now, scientists were only able to identify the protein that regulated these two branches of the plant's immune system.

The new research for the first time identified the specific proteins that are the gatekeepers, the actual proteins that control the opening and closing of tiny holes in the leaves called "stomata" -- to let water or gases in, and keep invading bacteria out.

The study involved a flowering plant named Arabidopsis, a relative of cabbage and mustard plants. It could help lead to better protection of crops and other plants.

And maybe even some hope for my ficus.

"The Discovery Files" covers projects funded by the government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research -- brought to you, by you! Learn more at or on our podcast.

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