Department of Plant Pathology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506-5502 U.S.A.
Tomato plants overexpressing the disease resistance gene Pto (35S∷Pto) exhibit spontaneous cell death, accumulation of salicylic acid (SA), elevated expression of pathogenesis-related genes, and enhanced resistance to a broad range of pathogens. Because salicylate plays an important role in the cell death and defense activation in many lesion mimic mutants, we investigated the interaction of SA-mediated processes and the 35S∷Pto-mediated defense pathway by introducing the nahG transgene that encodes salicylate hydroxylase. Here, we show that SA is not required for the 35S∷Pto-activated microscopic cell death and plays a minor role in defense gene activation and general disease resistance in 35S∷Pto plants. In contrast, temperature greatly affects the spontaneous cell death and general resistance in 35S∷Pto plants, and high temperature inhibits the cell death. The NahG tomato plants develop spontaneous, unconstrained necrotic lesions on leaves. These lesions also are initiated by the inoculation of a virulent strain of Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato. However, the NahG-dependent necrotic lesions are inhibited in the NahG/35S∷Pto plants. This inhibition is most pronounced under conditions favoring the 35S∷Pto-mediated spontaneous cell death development. These results indicate that the signaling pathways activated by Pto overexpression suppress the cellular damage that is caused by SA depletion. We also found that ethylene is dispensable for the 35S∷Pto-mediated general defense.