Two people looking at a plant.
Savithramma Dinesh-Kumar, left, and Nathan Meier, right, have uncovered new insights into the functions of chloroplasts, some of which can alter their shape and help a plant fight infection. (Sasha Bakhter / UC Davis)

Chloroplasts Do More Than Photosynthesis; They’re Also a Key Player In Plant Immunity

New research sheds light on unique chloroplast structures 100 years after their discovery

Quick Summary

  • In a new study, Prof. Savithramma Dinesh-Kumar and Nathan Meier, a graduate student in Dinesh-Kumar’s lab, and colleagues have identified a key protein involved in stromule biogenesis during immunity.

This article originally appeared on the College of Biological Sciences News.

Scientists have long known that chloroplasts help plants turn the sun’s energy into food, but a new study, led by researchers in the Department of Plant Biology, shows that they’re also essential for plant immunity to viral and bacterial pathogens.

Chloroplasts are generally spherical, but a small percentage of them change their shape and send out tube-like projections called “stromules.” First observed over a century ago, the biological function of stromules has remained enigmatic.

Previous studies have shown that chloroplasts produce more stromules when a plant detects an infection. Stromules aid in clustering chloroplasts around the nucleus and function as conduits to transport pro-defense signals from chloroplasts to the nucleus. Despite these findings, researchers have not been able to determine the role of stromules in immunity, as no genes involved with the formation of stromules have been identified.

In a new study, Savithramma Dinesh-Kumar, a professor and chair in the Department of Plant Biology, and Nathan Meier, a graduate student in Dinesh-Kumar’s lab, and colleagues have identified a key protein involved in stromule biogenesis during immunity. Their findings were published on October 25 in Science Advances.

Read the full article here.

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