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Virulent pathogen Uses a Genetic Decoy to Foil Host’s Immune Defenses

Oregon State University is developing CRISPR gene-editing technology to destroy the genes in plants that cause the ongoing outbreak of sudden oak death in Oregon and California and other diseases. A virulent plant-disease agent called Phytophthora sojae knocks out resistance in its soybean host by sending out a “decoy” protein to confuse the plant’s immune system. The newly uncovered mechanism may explain why the group of plant pathogens known as Phytophthora are so devastating to crops and natural ecosystems worldwide. The study provides a vivid glimpse into the evolutionary arms race between Phytophthora species and their hosts. The researchers focused on P. sojae, which attacks soybeans, and particularly on a critical protein called a xyloendoglucanase, or XEG.

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