How are proteins in the cells of a flowering plant similar to social networks on Twitter or Facebook? And how might both of those be related to the way pathogens make plants or people sick?
Shahid Mukhtar, Ph.D., and colleagues at the University of Alabama at Birmingham address these questions in a collaborative study with Youssef Belkhadir at the Gregor Mendel Institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Using systems biology, they successfully identified previously unknown protein targets of plant pathogens in the flowering plant Arabidopsis thaliana by employing some of the same methods used to analyze social networks. Their theoretical framework, they say, could help analyze other interactions between species to reveal pathogen contact points.