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IUBMB Life. 2002 Feb;53(2):67-75.

Oxalate, germins, and higher-plant pathogens.

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Biochemistry Department, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Earlier surveys (1, B. G. Lane. [1991] FASEB J. 5, 2983-2901; 2, B. G. Lane. [1994] FASEB J. 8, 294-301) helped to uproot entrenched views of plant oxalate as a static substance. It is now recognized that oxalate oxidases (OXOs) found in the "true cereals" (barley, maize, oat, rice, rye, wheat), the so-called germin OXOs (G-OXOs), or simply germins, are involved in cereal defence responses to invasion by fungal pathogens and that they show promise of being valuable agents of plant defence in dicotyledons, where they are not found naturally. G-OXOs have very peculiar properties: (a) their water-soluble oligomeric structures and enzymic activity are stable during SDS-PAGE and nitrocellulose blotting, (b) their undenatured water-soluble forms are refractory to the action of broad-specificity proteases, (c) their water-insoluble forms occur abundantly (approximately 50%) in the extracellular matrix (cell walls) of wheat, and probably in varying amounts in the cell walls of other true cereals. Transfer of the wheat G-OXO coding element to dicotyledons has been found, in all cases so far examined, to result in improved resistance to fungal pathogens. The possible nature of the improved resistance is discussed in relation to (a) generation of microcidal concentrations of hydrogen peroxide when the G-OXOs act on oxalate, (b) elicitation of hypersensitive cell death at lower concentrations of hydrogen peroxide, (c) formation of effective barriers against predator penetration by the hydrogen-peroxide-mediated lignification of cell walls, and (d) destruction of oxalate, which is an inhibitor of the hypersensitive response, a strategy of particular importance in the case of ubiquitous predator organisms such as Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, which secrete high concentrations of oxalate as a toxin.

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