Image caption: Profuse phyllody due to phytoplasma infection showing characteristics witches’ broom symptom.

Immortality is the subject of human interest for time immemorial. Scientists are scratching their heads to achieve everlasting life since the birth of science. Finally, a researcher from the Hogenhout group at the John Innes Centre has identified a manipulation molecule produced by phytoplasma bacteria to hijack plant development. Inside the plant’s system this protein break down key growth regulators and trigger abnormal plant growth.

How this protein give plant “forever young” status?

This group of bacteria(phytoplasma) produce a very specific protein name SAP05 which hijacks and reprogrammed plants own machinery called proteasome and induce ‘witches’ brooms’ commonly seen in sugarcane, acid lime, etc. These bushy outgrowths are the result of the plant being stuck in a vegetative “zombie” state, unable to reproduce and therefore progress to a ‘forever young’ status.

Image caption:Phytoplasma effector SAP05 induces witche’s broom in Arabidopsis – credit:weijie Huang, John inne’s centre

Some Promising benefits of this discovery:-

1.This novel discovery may offer new ways to protect disease-threatened food cross.

2. This can help seize the plant in the vegetative stage and therefore; many seasonal/short period leafy vegetable productions can increase by many folds.

3. This mechanism can help to address major issues like global food security due to disease insurgence.

Researcher’s perspective

Professor Saskia Hogenhout, corresponding author of the study said: “Phytoplasmas are a spectacular example of how the reach of genes can extend beyond the organisms to impact surrounding environments’.

We highlight a promising strategy for engineering plants to achieve a level of durable resistance of crops to phytoplasmas.”


This type of innovation in plant engineering can bring major path-breaking sustainable way of containing disease and also help fostering chemical free global food production.


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