14 September 2021

WAKsing plant immunity, waning diseases

Stephens C, Hammond-Kosack KE, Kanyuka K. - Journal of Experimental Botany, 2021


With the requirement to breed more productive crop plants in order to feed a growing global population, compounded by increasingly widespread resistance to pesticides exhibited by pathogens, plant immunity is becoming an increasingly important area of research. Of the genes that contribute to disease resistance, the wall-associated receptor-like kinases (WAKs) are increasingly shown to play a major role, in addition to their contribution to plant growth and development or tolerance to abiotic stresses. Being transmembrane proteins, WAKs form a central pillar of a plant cell’s ability to monitor and interact with the extracellular environment. Found in both dicots and monocots, WAKs have been implicated in defence against pathogens with diverse lifestyles and contribute to plant immunity in a variety of ways. Whilst some act as cell surface-localized immune receptors recognizing either pathogen- or plant-derived invasion molecules (e.g. effectors or damage-associated molecular patterns, respectively), others promote innate immunity through cell wall modification and strengthening, thus limiting pathogen intrusion. The ability of some WAKs to provide both durable resistance against pathogens and other agronomic benefits makes this gene family important targets in the development of future crop ideotypes and important to a greater understanding of the complexity and robustness of plant immunity.

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