The circadian clock, an internal time-keeping mechanism, allows plants to anticipate regular changes in the environment, such as light and dark, and biotic challenges such as pathogens and herbivores. Here, we demonstrate that the plant circadian clock influences susceptibility to the necrotrophic fungal pathogen, Botrytis cinerea. Arabidopsis plants show differential susceptibility to B. cinerea depending on the time of day of inoculation. Decreased susceptibility after inoculation at dawn compared with night persists under constant light conditions and is disrupted in dysfunctional clock mutants, demonstrating the role of the plant clock in driving time-of-day susceptibility to B. cinerea. The decreased susceptibility to B. cinerea following inoculation at subjective dawn was associated with faster transcriptional reprogramming of the defence response with gating of infection-responsive genes apparent. Direct target genes of core clock regulators were enriched among the transcription factors that responded more rapidly to infection at subjective dawn than subjective night, suggesting an influence of the clock on the defence-signalling network. In addition, jasmonate signalling plays a crucial role in the rhythmic susceptibility of Arabidopsis to B. cinerea with the enhanced susceptibility to this pathogen at subjective night lost in a jaz6 mutant.Significance Statement
The circadian clock impacts plant metabolism and responses to the environment, including host susceptibility to pathogens. Here we demonstrate that Arabidopsis is less susceptible to fungal inoculation at dawn, because the defence transcriptional network is more rapidly activated. Genes differentially expressed at dawn and night were highly enriched for known direct targets of core clock transcription factors, suggesting direct links between the clock and the defence regulatory network.