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Plant J. 2011 Jun;66(6):953-68. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-313X.2011.04553.x. Epub 2011 Apr 4.

A critical role of autophagy in plant resistance to necrotrophic fungal pathogens.

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Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, 915 West State Street, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2054, USA.


Autophagy is a pathway for degradation of cytoplasmic components. In plants, autophagy plays an important role in nutrient recycling during nitrogen or carbon starvation, and in responses to abiotic stress. Autophagy also regulates age- and immunity-related programmed cell death, which is important in plant defense against biotrophic pathogens. Here we show that autophagy plays a critical role in plant resistance to necrotrophic pathogens. ATG18a, a critical autophagy protein in Arabidopsis, interacts with WRKY33, a transcription factor that is required for resistance to necrotrophic pathogens. Expression of autophagy genes and formation of autophagosomes are induced in Arabidopsis by the necrotrophic fungal pathogen Botrytis cinerea. Induction of ATG18a and autophagy by B. cinerea was compromised in the wrky33 mutant, which is highly susceptible to necrotrophic pathogens. Arabidopsis mutants defective in autophagy exhibit enhanced susceptibility to the necrotrophic fungal pathogens B. cinerea and Alternaria brassicicola based on increased pathogen growth in the mutants. The hypersusceptibility of the autophagy mutants was associated with reduced expression of the jasmonate-regulated PFD1.2 gene, accelerated development of senescence-like chlorotic symptoms, and increased protein degradation in infected plant tissues. These results strongly suggest that autophagy cooperates with jasmonate- and WRKY33-mediated signaling pathways in the regulation of plant defense responses to necrotrophic pathogens.

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