Tomatoes at the molecular level recognize the parasitic herb and defend against it

An international team of scientists has found that tomatoes are able to identify the dodder (Cuscuta) is a parasite. There is a protein in the cell walls of the plant that is identified by the tomato receptor as “foreign”. The new discovery is reported by the journal Nature Communications.

Cuscuta, also known as dodder, is a parasitic plant. It is a vine that is grafted onto a host plant to obtain water, minerals, and carbohydrates. In addition to tomatoes, the parasite also attacks and damages crops such as rapeseed, corn, soybeans, and flax.

Plants are generally unable to detect an invasion by the parasite. But some types of tomatoes appear to be actively defending themselves. They form a kind of wooden “fabric” that prevents the penetration of the dodder haustoria (suckers) into the plant. Earlier, biologists at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg (FAU) discovered that these tomatoes have a special receptor Cuscuta 1 (CuRe1), which triggers a defense mechanism. However, until now it was unclear how the receptor recognizes the danger posed by dodder.

Finally, the researchers managed to answer this question. It turns out that the dodder has a specific marker in the cell structure. It is a glycine-rich protein (GRP). Using the CuRe1 receptor, tomato is able to recognize the molecular structure of GRP and identify dodder as a pathogen, which, as a result, triggers an immune response. New data on the “molecular dialogue” between the Cuscuta marker and tomato receptors may help improve crop resistance to parasitic plants.