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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 Jul 31;98(16):9448-53.

A fatty acid desaturase modulates the activation of defense signaling pathways in plants.

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Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research, Tower Road, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.


Salicylic acid (SA) plays an important role in activating various plant defense responses, including expression of the pathogenesis-related (PR) genes and systemic acquired resistance. A critical positive regulator of the SA signaling pathway in Arabidopsis is encoded by the NPR1 gene. However, there is growing evidence that NPR1-independent pathways can also activate PR expression and disease resistance. To elucidate the components associated with NPR1-independent defense signaling, we isolated a suppressor of the npr1-5 allele, designated ssi2. The recessive ssi2 mutation confers constitutive PR gene expression, spontaneous lesion formation, and enhanced resistance to Peronospora parasitica. In contrast, a subset of defense responses regulated by the jasmonic acid (JA) signaling pathway, including expression of the defensin gene PDF1.2 and resistance to Botrytis cinerea, is impaired in ssi2 plants. With the use of a map-based approach, the SSI2 gene was cloned and shown to encode a stearoyl-ACP desaturase (S-ACP DES). S-ACP DES is an archetypical member of a family of soluble fatty acid (FA) desaturases; these enzymes play an important role in regulating the overall level of desaturated FAs in the cell. The activity of mutant S-ACP DES enzyme was reduced 10-fold, resulting in elevation of the 18:0 FA content in ssi2 plants. Because reduced S-ACP DES activity leads to the induction of certain defense responses and the inhibition of others, we propose that a FA-derived signal modulates crosstalk between different defense signaling pathways.

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