Extensins are hydroxyproline-rich glycoproteins thought to strengthen the plant cell wall, one of the first barriers against pathogens, through intra- and intermolecular cross-links. The glycan moiety of extensins is believed to confer the correct structural conformation to the glycoprotein, leading to self-assembly within the cell wall that helps limit microbial adherence and invasion. However, this role is not clearly established.
Castilleux et al. used Arabidopsis thaliana mutants impaired in extensin arabinosylation to investigate the role of extensin arabinosylation in root–microbe interactions. Mutant and wild-type roots were stimulated to elicit an immune response with flagellin 22 and immunolabelled with a set of anti-extensin antibodies. Roots were also inoculated with a soilborne oomycete, Phytophthora parasitica, to assess the effect of extensin arabinosylation on root colonization.
The authors provide evidence for a link between extensin arabinosylation and root defence, and propose a model to explain the importance of glycosylation in limiting invasion of root cells by pathogenic oomycetes.