Cyst nematodes of the genus Heterodera are obligate, sedentary endoparasites that have developed highly evolved relationships with specific host plant species. Successful parasitism involves significant physiological and morphological changes to plant root cells for the formation of specialized feeding cells called syncytia. To better understand the molecular mechanisms that lead to the development of nematode feeding cells, transcript profiling was conducted on developing syncytia induced by the soybean cyst nematode Heterodera glycines in soybean roots by coupling laser capture microdissection with high-density oligonucleotide microarray analysis. This approach has identified pathways that may play intrinsic roles in syncytium induction, formation, and function. Our data suggest interplay among phytohormones that likely regulates synchronized changes in the expression of genes encoding cell-wall-modifying proteins. This process appears to be tightly controlled and coordinately regulated with cell wall rigidification processes that may involve lignification of feeding cell walls. Our data also show local downregulation of jasmonic acid biosynthesis and responses in developing syncytia, which suggest a local suppression of plant defense mechanisms. Moreover, we identified genes encoding putative transcription factors and components of signal transduction pathways that may be important in the regulatory processes governing syncytium formation and function. Our analysis provides a broad mechanistic picture that forms the basis for future hypothesis-driven research to understand cyst nematode parasitism and to develop effective management tools against these pathogens.
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