They ran an article about our work in the Queen's Gazette called Flipping the Switch - here's an excerpt: “Most people are familiar with their own immune system and how it functions, but we don’t often consider immune systems in other organisms,” explains Dr. Monaghan, who took part in the study while a postdoctoral researcher at the Sainsbury Laboratory. “Immune responses need to be ‘turned off’ once the threat is eliminated – otherwise, there can be negative effects on the organism. In humans, this can result in autoimmune disorders. In plants, we see stunted growth and other detrimental effects.”
I enjoyed working on this exciting project published today in Science. Congrats to all the authors, especially first-author Martin Stegmann, on this great achievement! The work was done in the labs of Cyril Zipfel and the Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich UK and Youssef Belkadir at the GMI in Vienna, Austria. Here's a summary of what we found: To grow well, all the plants around you, including the ones on your dinner plate, need to respond to environmental stresses such as pathogen infection, water availability, and temperature fluctuations. In some ways similar to our own immune system, plants are able to respond to pathogen infection through cellular receptors that activate anti-microbial defense. Responding to pathogen stress must be carefully balanced in order to avoid negative impacts to growth. The aim of this work was to understand this balancing act. We uncovered the role of a group of small proteins called RALF peptides that dampen immune signaling by interfering with the assembly of immune receptor complexes. This kind of ‘negative-feedback’ regulation is common in many signaling pathways but is just starting to be understood in plants.