Washington State Magazine

Washington State Magazine :: Summer 2013

Summer 2013

In This Issue...


The Animal Mind Reader :: Beyond the notion that animals other than humans may indeed possess consciousness, Jaak Panksepp’s work suggests a litany of philosophical implications: How should we treat animals? Do we have free will? Where might we search for the meaning of life? Are our most fundamental values actually biological in nature? by Eric Sorensen

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Video: The Primal Power of Play }

Something Old Something New—A history of hospitality :: When Washington State College introduced its hospitality program in 1932, no one had yet imagined an airport hotel, a drive-through restaurant, a convention center, or the boom of international travel. Eighty years later, as the industry grows in new and unexpected ways, the School of Hospitality sends its graduates out to meet its evolving needs. by Hannelore Sudermann

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Video: The History of Alderbrook Resort }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Story: WSU’s Bell Hop }

Waiting for the Rain :: “The point of our visit was to talk about food, drought, and war. Begnemato sits in central Mali, in the east of Mopti province, where staples like millet and rice sell for six times what they did a year ago. Andoule blames their food problems on the fighting in the north and last year’s poor rains.... The previous year’s drought had depleted village seed stocks, and the conflict in northern Mali has either cut off many farmers from their fields or frightened them away.” From We Never Knew Exactly Where: Dispatches from the Lost Country of Mali. by Peter Chilson

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Video: On the edge of turmoil Peter Chilson talks about his experiences in Mali. }


{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Excerpt: Micronesian Blues A section of WSU Professor Bryan Vila’s book Micronesian Blues, about training police officers in South Pacific islands. }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Video: After Newtown: Guns in America A PBS documentary on the role of guns in U.S. culture, with WSU emeritus Professor Joan Burbick. }


{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Video: You sunk my battleship! A look at the intramural Battleship game in Gibb Pool at WSU, courtesy of University Recreation }


{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Video: Greg Blanchard: WSU Chef }

New media

:: Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories by Sherman Alexie ’94

:: We Are the Bus by James McKean ’68, ’74

:: Chicago, Barcelona Connections by Greg Duncan ’98

:: WSU Cougars from A to Z by Carla Nellis ’90

:: New & Noteworthy: Planet Rock Doc: Nuggets from Explorations of the Natural World and The Whole Story of Climate: What Science Reveals about the Nature of Endless Change by E. Kirsten Peters; Blazing a Wagon Trail to Oregon: A Weekly Chronicle of the Great Migration of 1843 by Lloyd W. Coffman ’87; Career Choices for Veterinarians: Private Practice and Beyond by Carin A. Smith ’84

On the cover: Jaak Panksepp with zebra mask by Pierre-Marie Valat. Photo Robert Hubner

Tree in sunlight. <em>Staff photoillustration/Wikimedia</em>

Staff photoillustration/Wikimedia

Why aren’t plants more sick than they are?

by | © Washington State University

Why are plants immune to most of the diseases surrounding them in the environment? Lee Hadwiger, Washington State University professor of plant pathology, has been wrestling with this question most of his career. 

Were it not for a commonplace but mysterious trait called non-host resistance (NHR), plants would be constantly attacked by fungi, bacteria, and other pathogens swarming in the air, soil, and bodies. For the most part, plants are immune to those challenges because NHR gives them their most robust and durable immunity to the myriad pathogens challenging them. 

In the January issue of Phytopathology, Hadwiger and his colleague, USDA Agricultural Research Service plant pathologist James Polashock, offer new insight into the mechanism triggering the NHR response in plants.

“Innate immunity has to be triggered by something,” Hadwiger says, “but we are only now gaining some insight on how signaling occurs at the molecular level.” 

Hadwiger and Polashock show that fungal DNase enzymes trigger the NHR response in a variety of plant species. They further theorize that these fungal DNase genes appear to provide an unlimited source of components for developing transgenic resistance in all transformable plants.

DNase is the generic term for a wide variety of enzymes that catalyze changes in DNA molecules. Hadwiger explains that DNases from fungal mitochondria have a small peptide molecule that enables them to move through plant cell membranes and thus induce expression of NHR in the plant. Hadwiger and Polashock demonstrated that when a plant encounters a fungal DNase purified in the lab, the NHR response is triggered.

Hadwiger and Polashock used baker’s yeast, a relatively innocuous fungus not known to cause disease, to trigger the NHR response in a pea plant. Hadwiger and students in his laboratory had previously induced this defense response by transferring a fungal DNase gene to tobacco. The tobacco plants then expressed the NHR response to a known tobacco pathogen.

“The potential positive impact of this for agriculture would be a reduction in the use of fungicides,” Hadwiger says. Currently, disease resistance genes are typically introduced in commercially important plants through conventional breeding techniques. But, Hadwiger says, conventional breeding targets races of specific diseases and the introduced immunity may last only about seven years before the fungus evolves and overcomes the plant’s resistance.

“The natural NHR resistance would be preferable,” Hadwiger says. Toward that end, Hadwiger says he will remain vigilant about how best to transfer this natural process to plants that succumb to their specific diseases. He is optimistic that non-genetic engineering techniques may be devised to enhance the activity of the DNases transferred in the fungal-plant interactions.

Categories: Agriculture | Tags: Plant diseases, Plant pathology

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