Does your plant need a vaccination?
by Matthew Choo
Infecting plants with a weak virus strain protects the plant from a more severe virus strain, according to a recent article published in the Journal of Proteomics by researchers from NUS, the NUS-Suzhou Research Institute, and Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory (see link below). This could have huge impact on farmers whose crops are being devastated by the tobacco mosaic virus.
Much like how vaccinating children with a weaker attenuated form of a virus protects them from the virus, the team of scientists "vaccinated" a tobacco plant with a weak strain of tobacco mosaic virus only to discover that the plant was protected from a later infection by the full-blown virus. Since plants, unlike humans, do not have an adaptive immune system that remembers past infections, the team were puzzled by how the plant could raise its defences against a subsequent infection by a full-strength tobacco mosaic virus.
To discover the answer, Dr. Prem Prakash Das and others from Prof Lin Qingsong’s NUS group did quantitative proteomics using a special peptide tag called iTRAQ, two-dimensional separation of peptides and a SCIEX 5600 TripleTOF mass spectrometer. This setup allowed them to compare changes in the plant's protein levels before and after its vaccination. What they found was that in response to the weaker virus, the plant bolstered its rate of photosynthesis and began to produce antioxidants. The extra energy and antioxidants allowed the plants to withstand and survive the attack of the severe strain of the tobacco mosaic virus.
It seems like downing cans of Red Bull and Vitamin C works for plants as it does for humans when we catch a cold.
You can read the scientific article at the Journal of Proteomics: Das Prem Prakash, Gao Ming Chua, Qingsong Lin, and Sek-Man Wong. “ITRAQ-Based Analysis of Leaf Proteome Identifies Important Proteins in Secondary Metabolite Biosynthesis and Defence Pathways Crucial to Cross-Protection against TMV.” Journal of Proteomics 196 (March 30, 2019): 42–56. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jprot.2019.02.002.