Like humans, plants can get sick from viruses. Plant virus-induced diseases are the second-largest threat to agricultural production, crops infected with the virus will have devastating consequences, light production reduction, heavy harvest. So, how do plants fight viruses? Is there a way to protect against most of the viruses that threaten crops, thereby ensuring stable food production? Our scientists handed over a beautiful answer. The latest research by Zhao Zhong’s team at The University of Science and Technology of China, published in the early hours of this morning, reveals the wuSCHEL (WUS) protein, a key factor in plant stem cell immunovirals, and reveals the broad-spectrum antiviral mechanisms of plant stem cells.
Peer experts commented that the study addressed a long-standing and high-profile issue and was a ground-breaking study in the field of plant pathology and plant development.
A diagram of the broad-spectrum antiviral mechanism of plant stem cells. Art Design: Ma Zisong, Liang Wei.
According to Professor Zhao Zhong, just as the human body is immune to many viruses, plants can also resist viruses by virtue of their immunity. Although researchers at home and abroad have carried out a lot of research from RNA interference, cell autophagy, plant hormones and other angles, but the reasons for plant stem cells with broad-spectrum antiviral ability is still unclear, affecting the development of human research and development of plant antiviral technology. There are currently more than 1,000 known plant viruses, but existing human antiviral methods can only target a small number of viruses;
Professor Zhao Zhong (first from right) is mentoring students.
In the existing antiviral biotechnology, “stem tip detoxification” is rare can be applied to most plants, the most effective way to remove viruses in the body, but its deep-seated structure has not been revealed. Inspired by stem-tip detoxification technology, Zhao Zhong’s team found WUS to be a key antiviral protein found in plant stem cells after eight years of research. WUS in stem cells is a very conservative protein that is common in plants from low to higher. This protein is induced by viral infection and reduces the rate of protein synthesis by directly inhibiting a class of methyl transferase genes, affecting the assembly of the main cell device “nuclear glycosome” in which cells participate in protein synthesis. This will directly lead to the virus can not use plant cells to complete the translation of their own proteins and virus replication, assembly process, thereby inhibiting the spread of the virus.
A broad-spectrum antiviral schematic of stem cell antiviral proteins. Art design: Wu Navy, etc.
The researchers found that WUS protein can also be a “sharp weapon” for other cells to fight the virus, and the researchers expressed WUS protein in other cells of the plant to protect the plant from the virus. At the same time, the researchers examined a variety of viruses and confirmed that WUS proteins inhibit their infection with plant cells. This shows that WUS protein-mediated stem cell virus immunity has a broad spectrum.
WUS in plant cells prevents virus replication by destroying cell protein synthesis, keeping cells healthy. Art Design: Chen Lei Liang Wei.
The work looked at the broad-spectrum antiviral immune activity in plant-based tissues, and for the first time found such precise molecular connections between viral resistance and the maintenance of genes in the biogenic tissue.
Zhao Zhong said that the next step they plan to apply the results to breeding, based on the artificial evolution of protein technology, screening high disease-resistant proteins, and the use of biotechnology into a variety of crops, in order to obtain broad-spectrum high disease-resistant crop varieties. WuS, he says, is a conservative stem cell-regulating protein whose isotopes are found in a variety of plants. “The broad-spectrum antiviral mechanism mediated by WUS protein can provide a new research idea for antiviral control in a variety of crops, bringing new Sugon to the solution of stable global food production.” (Zhao Yongxin Fan Qiong Lu Wei)