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Dr. Aurélien Boisson-Dernier (Institut für Pflanzenwissenschaften); 25.06.2020

Molecular mimicry: How pathogens subvert plant physiology.

In nature, animals and plants try to enhance their survival rate and one of the most efficient way to do so is by looking similar to some environmental elements for camouflage or even imitating, for its own benefits, traits of other living organisms. This biological mimicry is a complex and spectacular phenomenon and act as an evolutionary driving force. It can be defensive to protect oneself from predators, aggressive to lure preys or effective for reproduction such as sexual deception in orchids. Perhaps not as spectacular but similarly effective is molecular mimicry discovered in 1964: the structural, functional or immunological similarities of molecules shared between pathogens and their hosts. Because both establishment and maintenance of disease depend on the passing and receiving of signals between pathogen and its host, pathogens produce molecules that mimic host components to gain some evolutionary advantages. Molecular mimicry has been observed in diverse species of pathogens that infect animals and plants. In this lecture, we will highlight the ingenuity of bacterial, nematode, fungal pathogens that produced diverse mimics of plant hormones to circumvent the host defence mechanisms, subvert its physiology and facilitate disease establishment and maintenance.