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An Investigation into the Involvement of Defense Signaling Pathways in Components of the Nonhost Resistance of Arabidopsis thaliana to Rust Fungi Also Reveals a Model System for Studying Rust Fungal Compatibility

May 2003 , Volume 16 , Number  5
Pages  398 - 404

Denny G. Mellersh and Michèle C. Heath

Botany Department, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S 1A1

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Accepted 11 January 2003.

Seventeen accessions of Arabidopsis thaliana inoculated with the cowpea rust fungus Uromyces vignae exhibited a variety of expressions of nonhost resistance, although infection hypha growth typically ceased before the formation of the first haustorium, except in Ws-0. Compared with wild-type plants, there was no increased fungal growth in ndr1 or eds1 mutants defective in two of the signal cascades regulated by the major class of Arabidopsis host resistance genes. However, in the Col-0 background, infection hyphae of U. vignae and two other rust fungi were longer in sid2 mutants defective in an enzyme that synthesizes salicylic acid (SA), in npr1 mutants deficient in a regulator of the expression of SA-dependent pathogenesis related (PR) genes, and in NahG plants containing a bacterial salicylate hydroxylase. Infection hyphae of U. vignae and U. appendiculatus but not of Puccinia helianthi were also longer in jar1 mutants, which are defective in the jasmonic acid defense signaling pathway. Nevertheless, haustorium formation increased only for the Uromyces spp. and only in sid2 mutants or NahG plants. Rather than the hypersensitive cell death that usually accompanies haustorium formation in nonhost plants, Arabidopsis typically encased haustoria in calloselike material. Growing fungal colonies of both Uromyces spp., indicative of a successful biotrophic relationship between plant and fungus, formed in NahG plants, but only U. vignae formed growing colonies in the sid2 mutants and cycloheximide-treated wild-type plants. Growing colonies did not develop in NahG tobacco or tomato plants. These data suggest that nonhost resistance of Arabidopsis to rust fungi primarily involves the restriction of infection hypha growth as a result of defense gene expression. However, there is a subsequent involvement of SA but not SA-dependent PR genes in preventing the Uromyces spp. from forming the first haustorium and establishing a sufficient biotrophic relationship to support further fungal growth. The U. vignae-Arabidopsis combination could allow the application of the powerful genetic capabilities of this model plant to the study of compatibility as well as nonhost resistance to rust fungi.

© 2003 The American Phytopathological Society