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Concept: Plant pathogens and diseases


Plants have evolved intracellular immune receptors to detect pathogen proteins known as effectors. How these immune receptors detect effectors remains poorly understood. Here we describe the structural basis for direct recognition of AVR-Pik, an effector from the rice blast pathogen, by the rice intracellular NLR immune receptor Pik. AVR-PikD binds a dimer of the Pikp-1 HMA integrated domain with nanomolar affinity. The crystal structure of the Pikp-HMA/AVR-PikD complex enabled design of mutations to alter protein interaction in yeast and in vitro, and perturb effector-mediated response both in a rice cultivar containing Pikp and upon expression of AVR-PikD and Pikp in the model plant Nicotiana benthamiana. These data reveal the molecular details of a recognition event, mediated by a novel integrated domain in an NLR, which initiates a plant immune response and resistance to rice blast disease. Such studies underpin novel opportunities for engineering disease resistance to plant pathogens in staple food crops.

Concepts: Immune system, Protein, Bacteria, Molecular biology, Signal transduction, Fungus, Rice, Plant pathogens and diseases


Antimicrobial peptides are a potent group of defense active molecules that have been utilized in developing resistance against a multitude of plant pathogens. Floral defensins constitute a group of cysteine-rich peptides showing potent growth inhibition of pathogenic filamentous fungi especially Fusarium oxysporum in vitro. Full length genes coding for two Petunia floral defensins, PhDef1 and PhDef2 having unique C-terminal 31 and 27 amino acid long predicted prodomains, were overexpressed in transgenic banana plants using embryogenic cells as explants for Agrobacterium-mediated genetic transformation. High level constitutive expression of these defensins in elite banana cv. Rasthali led to significant resistance against infection of Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense as shown by in vitro and ex vivo bioassay studies. Transgenic banana lines expressing either of the two defensins were clearly less chlorotic and had significantly less infestation and discoloration in the vital corm region of the plant as compared to untransformed controls. Transgenic banana plants expressing high level of full-length PhDef1 and PhDef2 were phenotypically normal and no stunting was observed. In conclusion, our results suggest that high-level constitutive expression of floral defensins having distinctive prodomains is an efficient strategy for development of fungal resistance in economically important fruit crops like banana.

Concepts: Gene, Bacteria, Amino acid, Fungus, Fusarium oxysporum, Fruit, Plant pathogens and diseases, Banana


BACKGROUND: The gene encoding PAD4 (PHYTOALEXIN-DEFICIENT4) is required in Arabidopsis for expression of several genes involved in the defense response to Pseudomonas syringae pv. maculicola. AtPAD4 (Arabidopsis thaliana PAD4) encodes a lipase-like protein that plays a regulatory role mediating salicylic acid signaling. RESULTS: We expressed the gene encoding AtPAD4 in soybean roots of composite plants to test the ability of AtPAD4 to deter plant parasitic nematode development. The transformed roots were challenged with two different plant parasitic nematode genera represented by soybean cyst nematode (SCN; Heterodera glycines) and root-knot nematode (RKN; Meloidogyne incognita). Expression of AtPAD4 in soybean roots decreased the number of mature SCN females 35 days after inoculation by 68 percent. Similarly, soybean roots expressing AtPAD4 exhibited 77 percent fewer galls when challenged with RKN. CONCLUSIONS: Our experiments show that AtPAD4 can be used in an economically important crop, soybean, to provide a measure of resistance to two different genera of nematodes.

Concepts: Parasites, Nematode, Model organism, Nematodes, Plant pathogens and diseases, Pseudomonas syringae, Root-knot nematode, Heterodera


In agricultural ecosystems, arthropod herbivores and fungal pathogens are likely to colonise the same plant and may therefore affect each other directly or indirectly. The fungus that causes powdery mildew (Blumeria graminis tritici) and cereal aphids are important pests of wheat but interactions between them have seldom been investigated. We studied the effects of powdery mildew of wheat on two cereal aphid species, Metopolophium dirhodum and Rhopalosiphum padi. We hypothesized that aphid number and size will be smaller on powdery mildew-infected plants than on non-infected plants. In a first experiment we used six commercially available wheat varieties whereas in the second experiment we used a genetically modified (GM) mildew-resistant wheat line and its non-transgenic sister line. Because the two lines differed only in the presence of the transgene and in powdery mildew resistance, experiment 2 avoided the confounding effect of variety. In both experiments, the number of M. dirhodum but not of R. padi was reduced by powdery mildew infection. Transgenic mildew-resistant lines therefore harboured bigger aphid populations than the non-transgenic lines. For both aphid species individual size was mostly influenced by aphid number. Our results indicate that plants that are protected from a particular pest (powdery mildew) became more favourable for another pest (aphids).

Concepts: Plant, Fungus, Experiment, Hemiptera, Plant pathogens and diseases, Aphid, Blumeria graminis, Powdery mildew


Strain HA10002 was isolated from mangrove sediment collected from Dongzhaigang Mangrove Reserve in Hainan, China. It was selected with potent nematicidal activity and was identified as Streptomyces albogriseolus. By bioassay-guided fractionation, a new active component A22-1(S1) against root-knot nematodes was separated from its fermentation broth. On the basis of spectroscopic analyses and comparison with the data from correlative literature, the structure of S1 was established to be 6'-methyl-fungichromin, named as fungichromin B in this paper. The LD50 values of fungichromin B to the 2-stage juveniles of Meloidogyne incognita and Meloidogyne javanica were 7.64 and 7.83 μg/ml, respectively. Further examination demonstrated fungichromin B still showed a wide antifungal spectrum, as with fungichromin.

Concepts: Nematodes, Plant pathogens and diseases, Root-knot nematode, Meloidogyne incognita, Meloidogyne


Solanum torvum Sw is worldwide employed as rootstock for eggplant cultivation because of its vigour and resistance/tolerance to the most serious soil-borne diseases as bacterial, fungal wilts and root-knot nematodes. The little information on Solanum torvum (hereafter Torvum) resistance mechanisms, is mostly attributable to the lack of genomic tools (e.g. dedicated microarray) as well as to the paucity of database information limiting high-throughput expression studies in Torvum.

Concepts: Parasites, Nematode, Nematodes, Solanum, Plant pathogens and diseases, Root-knot nematode, Meloidogyne incognita, Meloidogyne


Phytoplasmas have the smallest genome among bacteria and lack many essential genes required for biosynthetic and metabolic functions, making them unculturable, phloem-limited plant pathogens. In this study, we observed that transgenic Arabidopsis thaliana expressing the secreted effector protein SAP11AYWB of the Aster Yellows phytoplasma strain Witches' Broom (AY-WB) shows an altered root architecture, similarly to the disease symptoms of phytoplasma-infected plants, by forming hairy roots. This morphological change is paralleled by an accumulation of cellular Pi and an increase in the expression levels of Pi starvation-induced genes and miRNAs. In addition to the Pi starvation responses, we found that SAP11AYWB suppresses salicylic acid-mediated defense responses and enhances the growth of a bacterial pathogen. These results contribute to an improved understanding of the role of phytoplasma effector SAP11 and provide new insights for understanding the molecular basis of plant-pathogen interactions.

Concepts: DNA, Gene expression, Bacteria, Molecular biology, Metabolism, Genome, Phytoplasma, Plant pathogens and diseases


Fusarium head blight is one of the most important and most common diseases of winter wheat. In order to better understanding this disease and to assess the correlations between different factors, 30 cultivars of this cereal were evaluated in a two-year period. Fusarium head blight resistance was evaluated and the concentration of trichothecene mycotoxins was analysed. Grain samples originated from plants inoculated with Fusarium culmorum and naturally infected with Fusarium species. The genetic distance between the tested cultivars was determined and data were analysed using multivariate data analysis methods. Genetic dissimilarity of wheat cultivars ranged between 0.06 and 0.78. They were grouped into three distinct groups after cluster analysis of genetic distance. Wheat cultivars differed in resistance to spike and kernel infection and in resistance to spread of Fusarium within a spike (type II). Only B trichothecenes (deoxynivalenol, 3-acetyldeoxynivalenol and nivalenol) produced by F. culmorum in grain samples from inoculated plots were present. In control samples trichothecenes of groups A (H-2 toxin, T-2 toxin, T-2 tetraol, T-2 triol, scirpentriol, diacetoxyscirpenol) and B were detected. On the basis of Fusarium head blight assessment and analysis of trichothecene concentration in the grain relationships between morphological characters, Fusarium head blight resistance and mycotoxins in grain of wheat cultivars were examined. The results were used to create of matrices of distance between cultivars - for trichothecene concentration in inoculated and naturally infected grain as well as for FHB resistance Correlations between genetic distance versus resistance/mycotoxin profiles were calculated using the Mantel test. A highly significant correlation between genetic distance and mycotoxin distance was found for the samples inoculated with Fusarium culmorum. Significant but weak relationships were found between genetic distance matrix and FHB resistance or trichothecene concentration in naturally infected grain matrices.

Concepts: Fusarium, Wheat, Data analysis, Cereal, Plant pathogens and diseases, Mycotoxins, Stachybotrys, Trichothecene


Rice blast disease caused by the fungus, Magnaporthe oryzae, is one of the most devastating diseases of rice. Deciphering molecular mechanism of host-pathogen interactions is of great importance in devising disease management strategies. Transcription being the first step for gene regulation in eukaryotes, basic understanding of the transcriptome is sine qua non for devising effective management strategy. The availability of genome sequences of rice and M. oryzae has facilitated the process to a large extent. The current review summarizes recent understanding of rice-blast pathosystem, application of transcriptomics approaches to understand the interactions employing different platforms, major determinants in the interaction and possibility of using certain candidate for conditioning enhanced disease resistance (Effector Triggered Immunity and PAMP Triggered Immunity) and downstream signalling in rice. A better understanding of the interaction elements and effective strategies hold potential to reduce yield losses in rice caused by M. oryzae.

Concepts: DNA, Gene expression, RNA, Fungus, Plant pathogens and diseases, Magnaporthe grisea, Sordariomycetes


Banana (Musa spp.) is one of the world’s most important fruits. In 2011, 145 million metric tons worth an estimated $44 billion were produced in over 130 countries. Fusarium wilt (aka Panama disease) is one of the most destructive diseases of this crop. It devastated the ‘Gros Michel’-based export trades before the mid-1900s, and threatens the Cavendish cultivars that were used to replacement it; in total, the latter cultivars are now responsible for ca 45% of all production. An overview of the disease and its causal agent, Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense (Foc), is presented below. Despite a substantial positive literature on biological, chemical or cultural measures, management is largely restricted to excluding Foc from noninfested areas and using resistant cultivars where the pathogen has established. Resistance to Fusarium wilt is poor in several breeding targets, including important dessert and cooking cultivars. Better resistance to this and other diseases is needed. The history and impact of Fusarium wilt is summarized with an emphasis on tropical race 4 (TR4), a Cavendish-killing variant of the pathogen that has spread dramatically in the Eastern Hemisphere.

Concepts: Fusarium, Fusarium oxysporum, Plant pathogens and diseases, Banana