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Plant J. 2007 Mar;49(6):972-80. Epub 2007 Jan 26.

Cuticular defects lead to full immunity to a major plant pathogen.

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Département de Biologie, Université de Fribourg, Chemin du Musée 10, CH-1700 Fribourg, Switzerland.


In addition to its role as a barrier, the cuticle is also a source of signals perceived by invading fungi. Cuticular breakdown products have been shown previously to be potent inducers of cutinase or developmental processes in fungal pathogens. Here the question was addressed as to whether plants themselves can perceive modifications of the cuticle. This was studied using Arabidopsis thaliana plants with altered cuticular structure. The expression of a cell wall-targeted fungal cutinase in A. thaliana was found to provide total immunity to Botrytis cinerea. The response observed in such cutinase-expressing plants is independent of signal transduction pathways involving salicylic acid, ethylene or jasmonic acid. It is accompanied by the release of a fungitoxic activity and increased expression of members of the lipid transfer protein, peroxidase and protein inhibitor gene families that provide resistance when overexpressed in wild-type plants. The same experiments were made in the bodyguard (bdg) mutant of A. thaliana. This mutant exhibits cuticular defects and remained free of symptoms after inoculation with B. cinerea. The expression of resistance was accompanied by the release of a fungitoxic activity and increased expression of the same genes as observed in cutinase-expressing plants. Structural defects of the cuticle can thus be converted into an effective multi-factorial defence, and reveal a hitherto hidden aspect of the innate immune response of plants.

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