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PLoS Pathog. 2012;8(4):e1002640. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1002640. Epub 2012 Apr 5.

Airborne signals from a wounded leaf facilitate viral spreading and induce antibacterial resistance in neighboring plants.

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A. N. Belozersky Institute of Physico-Chemical Biology, Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia.


Many plants release airborne volatile compounds in response to wounding due to pathogenic assault. These compounds serve as plant defenses and are involved in plant signaling. Here, we study the effects of pectin methylesterase (PME)-generated methanol release from wounded plants ("emitters") on the defensive reactions of neighboring "receiver" plants. Plant leaf wounding resulted in the synthesis of PME and a spike in methanol released into the air. Gaseous methanol or vapors from wounded PME-transgenic plants induced resistance to the bacterial pathogen Ralstonia solanacearum in the leaves of non-wounded neighboring "receiver" plants. In experiments with different volatile organic compounds, gaseous methanol was the only airborne factor that could induce antibacterial resistance in neighboring plants. In an effort to understand the mechanisms by which methanol stimulates the antibacterial resistance of "receiver" plants, we constructed forward and reverse suppression subtractive hybridization cDNA libraries from Nicotiana benthamiana plants exposed to methanol. We identified multiple methanol-inducible genes (MIGs), most of which are involved in defense or cell-to-cell trafficking. We then isolated the most affected genes for further analysis: β-1,3-glucanase (BG), a previously unidentified gene (MIG-21), and non-cell-autonomous pathway protein (NCAPP). Experiments with Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) and a vector encoding two tandem copies of green fluorescent protein as a tracer of cell-to-cell movement showed the increased gating capacity of plasmodesmata in the presence of BG, MIG-21, and NCAPP. The increased gating capacity is accompanied by enhanced TMV reproduction in the "receivers". Overall, our data indicate that methanol emitted by a wounded plant acts as a signal that enhances antibacterial resistance and facilitates viral spread in neighboring plants.

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