March 2020

Department of Plant Sciences NEWS: Brushing off unwanted advances – how plants exercise restraint over beneficial fungi

When nutrients are scarce in the soil, plants recruit helper fungi into life-long alliances called arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) symbioses. Fungal assistance – despite desirable – can become costly as it is fuelled by considerable amounts of carbon delivered by the plant. At the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge, Dr. Jeongmin Choi  in the research team of Professor Uta Paszkowski, discovered a protein from rice, called SMAX1, that functions as a molecular brake to control the plant’s engagement with the fungus (published on Nature Communications). Via biochemical dialogues, plants ‘check-out’ potential partner fungi, stimulate appropriate candidates by secretion of chemical called strigolactones, and only then commit to the interaction. In the presence of SMAX1, the plant no longer sees the fungus as an attractive ally, suppressing essential symbiosis programmes, and refraining from encouraging the fungus through increased production of strigolactones.

Choi, J., Lee, T., Cho, J. et al.The negative regulator SMAX1 controls mycorrhizal symbiosis and strigolactone biosynthesis in rice.  Nat Commun 11, 2114 (2020).

Share this:

Receive updates from the Crop Science Centre

Thanks! We’ve received your email.

Sorry, something went wrong.

By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: The Crop Science Centre, Lawrence Weaver Rd, Cambridge, CB3 0LE, GB. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact.