PerspectivePlant Biology

Parasitic plants—A CuRe for what ails thee

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Science  29 Jul 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6298, pp. 442-443
DOI: 10.1126/science.aag3111

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Parasitic plants cause dramatic changes in ecosystems and represent a serious risk to agriculture by attacking crops of high economic importance. A highly conserved part of plant immune systems is the recognition of microbe-associated molecular patterns (MAMPs) by plasma membrane-localized pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) that initiate an effective immune response upon activation (1). Whether parasitic plants are also sensed as foes by these receptors was until now unknown. On page 478 of this issue, Hegenauer et al. report the identification of a canonical PRR that is required for responsiveness to a MAMP-like molecule from the parasitic plant Cuscuta reflexa and protects plants against parasitic attack (2). This finding opens the possibility of biotechnological applications for sustainable crop protection against these devastating parasites.