INRA, UIPMSV, Villa Thuret, BP 2078, F-06606, Antibes cedex, France
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Accepted 26 November 2001.
Ribonuclease (RNase) NE gene expression is induced in tobacco leaves in response to Phytophthora parasitica. Using antibodies directed against RNase NE, we demonstrate that RNase NE is extracellular at the early steps of the interaction, while the fungal tip growth is initiated in the apoplas-tic compartment. After production in Pichia pastoris and biochemical purification, we show that the S-like RNase NE inhibits hyphal growth from P. parasitica zoospores and from Fusarium oxysporum conidia in vitro. Conversion into an enzymatically inactive form after mutagenesis of the active site-histidine 97 residue to phenylalanine leads to the suppression of this activity, suggesting that RNase NE inhibits the elongation of germ tubes by degradation of microbial RNAs. Exogenous application of RNase NE in the extracellular space of leaves inhibits the development of P. parasitica. Based on its induction by inoculation, its localization, and its activity against two plant pathogens, we propose that RNase NE participates in tobacco defense mechanisms by a direct action on hyphal development in the extracellular space. The RNase activity-dependent antimicrobial activity of the S-like RNase NE shares similarities with the only other biological activity demonstrated for plant RNases, the inhibition of elongation of pollen tubes by the S-RNase in gametophytic self-incompatibility, suggesting a functional link between self and nonself interactions in plants.
© 2002 The American Phytopathological Society