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Induction of Phytohormones and Differential Gene Expression in Citrus Flowers Infected by the Fungus Colletotrichum acutatum

December 2004 , Volume 17 , Number  12
Pages  1,394 - 1,401

Katherine A. Lahey , 1 Rongcai Yuan , 1 Jacqueline K. Burns , 1 , 2 Peter P. Ueng , 3 L. W. Timmer , 1 , 4 and Kuang-Ren Chung 1 , 4

1Citrus Research and Education Center, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), University of Florida, Lake Alfred FL 33850, U.S.A.; 2Horticultural Sciences Department, IFAS, University of Florida, Gainesville 32611, U.S.A.; 3Molecular Plant Pathology Lab., United States Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service, BARC-West, 10300 Baltimore Ave., Beltsville, MD 20705, U.S.A.; and 4Department of Plant Pathology, IFAS, University of Florida, Gainesville 32611, U.S.A.

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Accepted 17 August 2004.

Colletotrichum acutatum infects citrus petals and induces premature fruit drop and the formation of persistent calyces. The accumulation of hormones and other growth regulators, and differential gene expression in affected flowers and young fruit, was examined following fungal infection. Ethylene evolution increased threefold and indole-3-acetic acid (IAA) accumulation was as much as 140 times. Abscisic acid (ABA) levels showed no significant response. After infection, both trans- and cis-12-oxo-phytodienoic acid increased 8- to 10-fold. No significant difference of trans-jasmonic acid (JA) was observed in citrus flower petals or pistils. However, a fivefold increase of cis-JA was detected. The amount of salicylic acid (SA) was elevated twofold in affected petals, but not in pistils. Northern blot analyses revealed that the genes encoding ACC oxidase or ACC synthase, and 12-oxo-phytodienoic acid (12-oxo-PDA) reductase, were highly expressed in affected flowers. The genes encoding auxin-related proteins also were upregulated. Application of 2-(4-chlorophenoxy)-2-methyl-propionic acid (clofibrate; a putative auxin inhibitor), 2,3,5-triiodobenzolic acid (an auxin transport inhibitor), or SA after inoculation significantly decreased the accumulation of the gene transcripts of auxin-responsive, GH3-like protein and 12-oxo-PDA reductase, but resulted in higher percentages of young fruit retention. The results indicate that imbalance of IAA, ethylene, and JA in C. acutatum-infected flowers may be involved in symptom development and young fruit drop.

Additional keywords: abscission, sweet orange.

© 2004 The American Phytopathological Society