1Dip. Territorio e Sistemi agro-forestali, sez. Patologia Vegetale, Università degli Studi di Padova, Via dell'Università 16, I-35020 Legnaro, Italy; 2Dip. Agrobiologia e Agrochimica, Università degli Studi della Tuscia, via S. Camillo de Lellis, I-01100 Viterbo, Italy
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Accepted 29 August 2004.
The necrotrophic fungal pathogen Sclerotinia sclerotiorum secretes oxalic acid and endo-polygalacturonase (endo-PG) in host plants. Oxalic acid acidifies the plant tissue to values more suitable to endo-PG activity. However, we observed that the infected soybean seedlings possessed a pH of 3.8, which is below that optimal for endo-PG activity (4.5 to 5.0). We investigated, therefore, the effects of pH (from 5.0 to 3.6) and oxalate (5 to 20 mM) on the activity of the major basic endo-PG (PGb) and towards an acidic endo-PG (PGa) secreted by S. sclerotiorum during soybean infection. We verified that only PGb activity is stimulated by oxalate, while at the lowest pH levels, PGa escapes the inhibition of a soybean polygalacturonase-inhibiting protein (PGIP). These results, performed on polygalacturonic acid, were apparently consistent with data obtained from studies with soybean hypocotyl segments, in which PGb activity was increased by oxalate and PGa maintained its activity also at pH 3.6, possibly because at this pH the PGIP contained in the plant tissue is inactive. Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction analysis showed that, during soybean infection, the expression of the putative pga gene is delayed in comparison to the basic one. The different temporal expressions of the two endo-PGs and their differing responses to pH, oxalate, and PGIP seem to be consistent with a possible maximization of the fungal PG activity in the host tissue.
© 2004 The American Phytopathological Society