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Leptosphaeria maculans Elicits Apoptosis Coincident with Leaf Lesion Formation and Hyphal Advance in Brassica napus

September 2008 , Volume 21 , Number  9
Pages  1,143 - 1,153

Caixia Li,1 Susan J. Barker,1 David G. Gilchrist,2 James E. Lincoln,2 and Wallace A. Cowling1,3

1School of Plant Biology M084, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009 AUSTRALIA; 2Department of Plant Pathology, University of California, Davis 95616, U.S.A.; 3Canola Breeders Western Australia Pty Ltd., 15/219 Canning Highway, South Perth, WA 6151, Australia

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Accepted 28 April 2008.

Programmed cell death, with many of the morphological markers of apoptosis, is increasingly recognized as an important process in plant disease. We have investigated the involvement and potential role of apoptosis during the formation of leaf lesions by the fungus Leptosphaeria maculans on susceptible Brassica napus cv. Westar. There were no signs of host cell damage until 7 to 8 days postinoculation (dpi), when trypan-blue-stained leaf mesophyll cells were first detected. Hyphae were visible in the intercellular spaces of the inoculated area from 5 dpi and were associated with trypan-blue-stained cells at 8 to 9 dpi. Hallmarks of apoptosis, observed coincident with or immediately prior to the formation of leaf lesions at 8 to 10 dpi, included membrane shrinkage of the mesophyll cell cytoplasm, loss of cell to cell contact in mesophyll cells, and terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end labeling of nuclei in apparently “healthy” tissue immediately adjacent to dead areas. Hyphae were highly branched and prolific in the “healthy” tissue immediately adjacent to dead areas 9 to 10 dpi, and formed pycnidia inside dead areas 11 to 12 dpi. Coinfiltration of the tetrapeptide caspase inhibitor Ac-DEVD-CHO with spores of the pathogen significantly suppressed development of leaf lesions but did not affect fungus viability. We hypothesize that L. maculans elicits apoptosis as a dependent component of pathogenesis in susceptible B. napus, and that the fungus uses apoptotic cells as a source of nutrition for reproduction and further growth.

Additional keywords:blackleg, canola, endophytic, necrotrophic, Phoma canker, saprophytic.

© 2008 The American Phytopathological Society