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Chemical ‘vaccine’ helps plants repel pathogens

Picture of two tomatoes on the vine
Oct 22 2019

When plants come under attack from invading bacteria, viruses or fungi, they mount a two-pronged response, producing both offensive chemicals to kill invaders and defensive chemicals to prevent infestations from spreading.

Now, a team at Stanford led by plant biologist Mary Beth Mudgett, Professor of Biology, and chemical engineer Elizabeth Sattely has used a type of chemical vaccine to switch on this plant defense system to prevent localized infections from becoming contagions, a possible first step toward helping harvests ward off infections.

A report published Oct. 22 in Science Signaling describes how they saved tomato and pepper plants from bacterial speck, the common name for a bacterial infestation that can spread from leaf to leaf, turning leaves yellow and ultimately killing the plants.