Understanding the role of host amino acid transporters in nutrient acquisition by oomycete pathogens

A key aspect of achieving and maintaining food security is sustainable agricultural production. This is endangered by plant diseases that lead to large losses in crop production.
All plant pathogens have to acquire food and nutrients from the plants they infect. Understanding how they acquire nutrients from the plant at a molecular level can give us insight into potential methods to prevent this and hence reduce the impact of plant diseases.
One such nutrient is nitrogen. Nitrogen is essential to all of an organism’s cellular and metabolic processes. Organisms utilize nitrogen by converting it from inorganic forms such as nitrates to organic forms such as amino acids. Some plant pathogens, such as Hyaloperonospora arabidopsidis (Hpa), which causes downy mildew disease on the model plant Arabidopsis, complete their entire life cycle on a living plant. They are also unable to convert the inorganic nitrogen to organic forms and hence depend on acquiring organic forms of nitrogen from the plant. Thus, it is important to understand how they acquire amino acids from the plant.
Plants use amino acid transporters that serve as a siphon or a pump in moving amino acids from one region of the plant to another. It is possible that pathogens manipulate plant’s amino acid transporters to move amino acids towards the infection site while, at the same time, plants might use another set of transporters to move amino acids away from the pathogen. This project was an attempt at understanding this potential role of plant amino acid transporters in plant-pathogen interactions using the model system of Hpa and Arabidopsis.