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Plant Physiol. 2007 Jun;144(2):1223-32. Epub 2007 Apr 6.

Sebacina vermifera promotes the growth and fitness of Nicotiana attenuata by inhibiting ethylene signaling.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Ecology, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Beutenberg Campus, 07745 Jena, Germany.


Sebacina vermifera, a growth-promoting endophytic fungus, significantly increases Nicotiana attenuata's growth but impairs both its herbivore resistance and its accumulation of the costly, jasmonic acid (JA)-regulated defense protein, trypsin proteinase inhibitor (TPI). To determine if the fungi's growth-promoting effects can be attributed to lower TPI-related defense costs, we inoculated transformed N. attenuata plants silenced in their ability to synthesize JA, JA-isoleucine, and TPI by antisense (lipoxygenase 3 [as-lox3] and Thr deaminase [as-td]) and inverted repeat (ir-tpi) expression, and found that inoculation promoted plant growth as in untransformed wild-type plants. Moreover, herbivore-elicited increases in JA and JA-isoleucine concentrations did not differ between inoculated and uninoculated wild-type plants. However, inoculation significantly reduced the morphological effect of 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid on wild-type seedlings in a triple response assay, suggesting that ethylene signaling was impaired. Furthermore, S. vermifera failed to promote the growth of N. attenuata plants transformed to silence ethylene production (1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid oxidase [ir-aco]). Inoculating wild-type plants with S. vermifera decreased the ethylene burst elicited by applying Manduca sexta oral secretions to mechanical wounds. Accordingly, oral secretion-elicited transcript levels of the ethylene synthesis genes NaACS3, NaACO1, and NaACO3 in inoculated plants were significantly lower compared to these levels in uninoculated wild-type plants. Inoculation accelerated germination in wild-type seeds; however, uninoculated wild-type seeds germinated as rapidly as inoculated seeds in the presence of the ethylene scrubber KMnO(4). In contrast, neither inoculation nor KMnO(4) exposure influenced the germination of ir-aco seeds. We conclude that S. vermifera increases plant growth by impairing ethylene production independently of JA signaling and TPI production.

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