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Scientists discover how deadly fungal microbes enter host cells

A research team led by scientists at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) at Virginia Tech has discovered a fundamental entry mechanism that allows dangerous fungal microbes to infect plants and cause disease. The discovery paves the way for the development of new intervention strategies to protect plant, and even some animal cells, from deadly fungal infections.

The researchers have revealed how special disease-related proteins, known as effectors, blaze a trail into cells. Fungi and fungal-like microbes known as oomycetes produce effector molecules that penetrate cells and switch off the host's defense system. Once the host's immune system has been disabled, the fungus or oomycete swiftly follows up, breaking and entering the cell and unleashing disease.

The pathogens in question, which include the microbe that caused the Irish potato famine in the nineteenth century, cause billions of dollars of losses for commercial farmers worldwide in crops such as soybean. They are also responsible for potentially fatal infectious diseases in humans.
 
 

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