Forcible Entry

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Science  17 Sep 1999:
Vol. 285, Issue 5435, pp. 1860-1861
DOI: 10.1126/science.285.5435.1860

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When fungal pathogens land on a leaf surface, they can use various mechanisms for entering the plant. Some species form specialized infection structures called appressoria which can generate large pressures and are believed to enter the plant by breaking the leaf surface. Bechinger et al. (page 1896) use an optical waveguide to visualize and quantify the pressures the appressoria exert, and provide the first direct evidence for the ability of appressoria to exert sufficient force for mechanical infection of plants. Combined with genetic studies, the method provides an opportunity to identify and characterize the genetic components of the infection process.