Many harmful bacteria inject harmful proteins into plants, causing diseases that harm our food supply. Biologist Sheng-Yang He and his research associate Kinya Nomura have been studying these proteins for 25 years. Thanks to a collaboration between three research groups, they may have found a way to stop these proteins from making plants sick. The proteins, called AvrE/DspE, are of great interest because removing them makes the bacteria harmless. However, researchers did not know how these proteins work because they are very large and complex. They used a computer program called AlphaFold2 to predict the 3D shape of the proteins, and it revealed that they resembled a tiny mushroom with a hollow center. The researchers hypothesized that the proteins may create a channel for water, allowing bacteria to invade the plant. They tested their hypothesis by adding the proteins to frog eggs and using nanoparticles to block the channel. The nanoparticles successfully prevented the water from entering the eggs, and they also blocked bacterial infections in plants. These findings could potentially be used to combat plant diseases that cause significant losses in global food production. The researchers have filed a provisional patent for their approach and plan to further investigate the interaction between the nanoparticles and the channel proteins.

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