Discovery of ‘death switch’ mechanism in plants may yield stronger crops


  • Chinese scientists have discovered a possible “death switch” mechanism in plant’s immune system that triggers infected cells to self-destruct, thus limiting the spread of the disease and keeping other parts of the plant healthy.


  • This is as per the findings published in the journal ‘Science’.
  • Research can lead to a new generation of disease-resistant crops that use significantly less pesticide and are more environmentally friendly.
  • Plants also have a unique “lure and catch” immune response to deal with pathogens that have breached their cellular defence, but exactly how this worked remained unknown.
  • A protein called AvrAC, which is produced by a bacterial pathogen that causes black rot on cabbage. The bacterium injects AvrAC into plant cells, where it acts as a “biochemical weapon” weakening the plant’s immune system.
  • This allows other scientists to examine its composition and functions more closely.
  • The ‘death switch’ is usually harmless to the plant because it only affects diseased cells, which are a tiny portion of the entire plant.
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