Re­searchers make plant im­mu­nity dis­cov­ery

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - By ZHOU WENTING in Shang­hai zhouwent­ing@chi­

Chi­nese sci­en­tists have dis­cov­ered how the de­fense mech­a­nism in plants func­tion and the find­ings could change the way hu­mans use pes­ti­cides, ac­cord­ing to re­searchers.

Chen Xiaoya, the lead re­searcher of the team at the Shang­hai In­sti­tute of Plant Phys­i­ol­ogy and Ecol­ogy of the Chi­nese Academy of Sci­ences, said that as a plant ages, its pest-re­sis­tant ca­pa­bil­ity in­creases while its im­mune re­sponse weak­ens.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­search find­ings, a cer­tain type of pro­tein in plants trig­gers the re­lease of a spe­cial kind of hor­mone which serves as a switch that turns on the im­mune re­sponse of a plant when it is bit­ten by pests. This re­sponse gets weaker when plants grow older.

On the other hand, the pestre­sis­tance ca­pa­bil­ity in­creases be­cause of the ac­cu­mu­la­tion of in­sect-re­sis­tant com­pounds over the years.

As such, the amount and types of pes­ti­cides sprayed on crops dur­ing the dif­fer­ent sea­sons could be changed.

“We don’t nec­es­sar­ily need to spray a large amount of pes­ti­cide on crops in spring. In­stead, we can give them a cer­tain kind of ‘vac­cine’ to spur them to pro­duce more in­sect-re­sis­tant com­pounds, which func­tion as weapons to fight against pests,” said Chen.

The dis­cov­ery, made af­ter three years of study, was pub­lished on the web­site of the sci­en­tific jour­nal Na­ture Com­mu­ni­ca­tions on Jan 9.

“Such find­ings are very in­ter­est­ing as they are quite sim­i­lar to the im­mu­nity sys­tem in an­i­mals and hu­man be­ings. Though chil­dren’s im­mu­nity lev­els are not as high as adults, their im­mune re­ac­tions against ill­nesses are quicker and more ag­gres­sive,” said Mao Yingbo, the main au­thor of the pa­per that de­tails the find­ings.

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