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Oomycete Plant Pathogens Use Electric Fields to Target Roots

August 2002 , Volume 15 , Number  8
Pages  790 - 798

P. van West , B. M. Morris , B. Reid , A. A. Appiah , M. C. Osborne , T. A. Campbell , S. J. Shepherd , and N. A. R. Gow

Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, Institute of Medical Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Foresterhill, Aberdeen AB25 2ZD, Scotland, U.K.

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Accepted 17 April 2002.

Plant roots generate electrical currents and associated electrical fields as a consequence of electrogenic ion transport at the root surface. Here we demonstrate that the attraction of swimming zoospores of oomycete plant pathogens to plant roots is mediated in part by electrotaxis in natural root-generated electric fields. The zones of accumulation of anode- or cathode-seeking zoospores adjacent to intact and wounded root surfaces correlated with their in vitro electrotactic behavior. Manipulation of the root electrical field was reflected in changes in the pattern of zoospore accumulation and imposed focal electrical fields were capable of overriding endogenous signals at the root surface. The overall pattern of zoospore accumulation around roots was not affected by the presence of amino acids at concentrations expected within the rhizosphere, although higher concentrations induced encystment and reduced root targeting. The data suggest that electrical signals can augment or override chemical ones in mediating short-range tactic responses of oomycete zoospores at root surfaces.

Additional keywords: chemotaxis , Phytophthora , Pythium .

© 2002 The American Phytopathological Society