Bacteria Turns Plants Into Zombies

Posted on April 14, 2014

Dr. Akiko Sugio and Dr. Saskia Hogenhout with a leaf hopper


Scientists have discovered how a bacteria turns plants into zombies. The bacteria induces the plant to turn its flowers into leaf tissue, rendering it sterile. Scientists in the labs of Professor Hogenhout at JIC, and Professors Angenent and Immink at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, discovered that the parasitic bacterium produces a protein called SAP54 that is essential to this process. The bacteria affect a broad range of plants, turning flowers green and transforming them into leaf tissue or producing a profusion of stems. When leafhoppers eat infected plant material, the bacteria colonize the insects, including their salivary glands. If the insect dribbles saliva as it sucks on another plant, the bacteria are able to spread to the new plant.

Professor Saskia Hogenhout from the John Innes Centre explains how this happens in the following video. Dr. Hogenhout says the bacteria turns the plants into the living dead. She says, "The plant stays alive just for the pathogens." Take a look:



The research was published here in PLoS Biology.

Photo: John Innes Centre