Nitrate Protects Cucumber Plants Against Fusarium oxysporum by Regulating Citrate Exudation

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Fusarium wilt causes severe yield losses in cash crops. Nitrogen plays a critical role in the management of plant disease; however, the regulating mechanism is poorly understood. Using biochemical, physiological, bioinformatic and transcriptome approaches, we analyzed how nitrogen forms regulate the interactions between cucumber plants and Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cucumerinum (FOC). Nitrate significantly suppressed Fusarium wilt compared with ammonium in both pot and hydroponic experiments. Fewer FOC colonized the roots and stems under nitrate compared with ammonium supply. Cucumber grown with nitrate accumulated less fusaric acid (FA) after FOC infection and exhibited increased tolerance to chemical FA by decreasing FA absorption and transportation in shoots. A lower citrate concentration was observed in nitrate-grown cucumbers, which was associated with lower MATE (multidrug and toxin compound extrusion) family gene and citrate synthase (CS) gene expression, as well as lower CS activity. Citrate enhanced FOC spore germination and infection, and increased disease incidence and the FOC population in ammonium-treated plants. Our study provides evidence that nitrate protects cucumber plants against F. oxysporum by decreasing root citrate exudation and FOC infection. Citrate exudation is essential for regulating disease development of Fusarium wilt in cucumber plants.

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