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Plant Signal Behav. 2013 Nov;8(11):e26366. doi: 10.4161/psb.26366. Epub 2013 Sep 11.

Pipecolic acid enhances resistance to bacterial infection and primes salicylic acid and nicotine accumulation in tobacco.

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Department of Biology; Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf; Düsseldorf, Germany.


Distinct amino acid metabolic pathways constitute integral parts of the plant immune system. We have recently identified pipecolic acid (Pip), a lysine-derived non-protein amino acid, as a critical regulator of systemic acquired resistance (SAR) and basal immunity to bacterial infection in Arabidopsis thaliana. In Arabidopsis, Pip acts as an endogenous mediator of defense amplification and priming. For instance, Pip conditions plants for effective biosynthesis of the phenolic defense signal salicylic acid (SA), accumulation of the phytoalexin camalexin, and expression of defense-related genes. Here, we show that tobacco plants respond to leaf infection by the compatible bacterial pathogen Pseudomonas syringae pv tabaci (Pstb) with a significant accumulation of several amino acids, including Lys, branched-chain, aromatic, and amide group amino acids. Moreover, Pstb strongly triggers, alongside the biosynthesis of SA and increases in the defensive alkaloid nicotine, the production of the Lys catabolites Pip and α-aminoadipic acid. Exogenous application of Pip to tobacco plants provides significant protection to infection by adapted Pstb or by non-adapted, hypersensitive cell death-inducing P. syringae pv maculicola. Pip thereby primes tobacco for rapid and strong accumulation of SA and nicotine following bacterial infection. Thus, our study indicates that the role of Pip as an amplifier of immune responses is conserved between members of the rosid and asterid groups of eudicot plants and suggests a broad practical applicability for Pip as a natural enhancer of plant disease resistance.


Pseudomonas syringaepv. tabaci; amino acids; defense priming; disease resistance; pipecolic acid; salicylic acid; tobacco

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