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Plant Physiol. 2008 Sep;148(1):358-68. doi: 10.1104/pp.108.119131. Epub 2008 Jul 3.

A role for AtWRKY23 in feeding site establishment of plant-parasitic nematodes.

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Department of Plant Systems Biology, Flanders Institute for Biotechnology, Ghent University, B-9052 Ghent, Belgium.


During the interaction between sedentary plant-parasitic nematodes and their host, complex morphological and physiological changes occur in the infected plant tissue, finally resulting in the establishment of a nematode feeding site. This cellular transformation is the result of altered plant gene expression most likely induced by proteins injected in the plant cell by the nematode. Here, we report on the identification of a WRKY transcription factor expressed during nematode infection. Using both promoter-reporter gene fusions and in situ reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, we could show that AtWRKY23 is expressed during the early stages of feeding site establishment. Knocking down the expression of WRKY23 resulted in lower infection of the cyst nematode Heterodera schachtii. WRKY23 is an auxin-inducible gene and in uninfected plants WRKY23 acts downstream of the Aux/IAA protein SLR/IAA14. Although auxin is known to be involved in feeding site formation, our results suggest that, during early stages, auxin-independent signals might be at play to activate the initial expression of WRKY23.

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