Root-mediated signal transmission of systemic acquired resistance against above-ground and below-ground pathogens

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Background and Aims Plants modulate defence signalling networks in response to various biotic stresses via inter-organ communications. The root-mediated transmission of systemic acquired resistance (SAR) against soil-borne and air-borne plant pathogens from SAR-induced plants to neighbouring plants subjected to local chemical and pathogen treatments was evaluated.

Methods The first two plants out of ten Nicotiana benthamiana seedlings were pre-treated with the SAR-triggering chemical benzothiadiazole (BTH). All ten seedlings were then challenged with two pathogenic bacteria, i.e. the root (bacterial wilt) pathogen Ralstonia solanacearum and the leaf (wildfire) pathogen Pseudomonas syringae pv. tabaci, at 7 d after SAR induction.

Key Results Disease severity was noticeably lower in BTH-pre-treated plants than in the control. Surprisingly, two plants located next to BTH-treated plants exhibited reduced disease symptoms indicating that SAR signal transmission occurred through the root system. Determinant(s) secreted from the root system were search for and it was found that salicylic acid (SA) is a major molecule involved in SAR transmission through the root. Analysis of the expression of the defence-related genes N. benthamiana pathogenesis-related gene 1a (NbPR1a) and NbPR2 confirmed that BTH treatment elicited SAR via root–root transmission between plants. Plants with knock-down of the multiple resistance component SGT1 and SA biosynthesis-related gene ICS1 by Tobacco rattle virus-mediated virus-induced gene silencing exhibited a lack of root-mediated SAR transmission. The biological relevance of this finding was validated by challenge with the SAR-inducing avirulent pathogen P. syringae pv. syringae instead of BTH, which produced similar results.

Conclusions Our findings demonstrated that SAR is transmissible through the root system from SAR-triggered plants to neighbouring plants.

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