Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Dead Ringers
12 January 2014

Dead Ringers

It may seem strange to compare an itchy rash with the spotted leaves of diseased plants, but these two phenomena have more in common than we might expect. In fact, the fungi responsible for these infections in plants and animals are quite closely related, and employ similar strategies to manipulate their hosts. Symptoms (pictured) caused by necrotrophic fungi, which feed on dead tissues, are remarkably alike – characterised by a ring of dead tissue spreading from the point of infection – whether on skin or leaves. The left panel shows the effects of shot hole disease in plants, caused by Cercospora fungi, while the right panel depicts skin lesions due to a fungal infection known as dermatophytosis, or ringworm. If fungi targeting humans and plants use comparable mechanisms, our understanding of how fungi invade plants may shed light on the processes involved in human infections too.

Written by Emmanuelle Briolat

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