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J Plant Res. 2004 Apr;117(2):155-62. Epub 2004 Feb 13.

Use of Scots pine seedling roots as an experimental model to investigate gene expression during interaction with the conifer pathogen Heterobasidion annosum (P-type).

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  • 1Department of Forest Mycology and Pathology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Box 7026, 75007, Uppsala, Sweden.


The root-rot fungus Heterobasidion annosum is a major pathogen of woody trees in temperate regions of the world. In this study, seedling root of Scots pine was used as an experimental model to investigate gene expression in conifer trees during challenge with H. annosum. Initial cellular and histochemical studies have established the systems and indicated the key sequence of events during the infection process. Also, to correlate histochemical observations with the time-dependent pattern of events in host gene expression, a transcriptome profiling of a selected set of host genes from a pine-root subtraction cDNA library was conducted. Differential screening of the subset of genes arrayed on nylon membrane with cDNA probes made from seedling roots infected for 1, 3, 7 and 15 days revealed a number of up-regulated genes [disease-resistance gene analog, antimicrobial peptide (AMP) gene homolog etc.] following inoculation. The results also showed strong expression of genes involved in cell defense and protein synthesis at the early stages of the infection (3-7 days) with a decline at late stages of infection (15 days). The decline in expression of key defense genes at late stages of infection correlated well with the period of vascular colonization and subsequent loss of root turgor. Northern analyses with two of the major induced genes (AMP homolog and disease-resistance gene analog) indicated a several-fold increase in host gene expression following infection. In addition, a particular single gene (thaumatin-like protein) was consistently expressed throughout the four sampling periods of the experiment. BlastX analyses revealed that the Scots-pine thaumatin-like gene shared 51-77% sequence homology with other thaumatin-like proteins in GenBank. The importance of these results in tree defense and use of conifer seedling root in host-parasite interaction in forest trees is discussed.

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