Plant and Animal Sensors of Conserved Microbial Signatures

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Science  19 Nov 2010:
Vol. 330, Issue 6007, pp. 1061-1064
DOI: 10.1126/science.1189468

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Common Themes

Both plants and animals need to be able to distinguish between their own tissues and the cells and tissues of an invading pathogen. Across kingdoms there exists a range of pattern recognition systems that have become integral to the evolution of innate immune responses. Ronald and Beutler (p. 1061) synthesize recent intellectual progress to bring insights into shared features of animal immunology and plant pathology.


The last common ancestor of plants and animals may have lived 1 billion years ago. Plants and animals have occasionally exchanged genes but, for the most part, have countered selective pressures independently. Microbes (bacteria, eukaryotes, and viruses) were omnipresent threats, influencing the direction of multicellular evolution. Receptors that detect molecular signatures of infectious organisms mediate awareness of nonself and are integral to host defense in plants and animals alike. The discoveries leading to elucidation of these receptors and their ligands followed a similar logical and methodological pathway in both plant and animal research.

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