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Salicylic Acid Regulates Basal Resistance to Fusarium Head Blight in Wheat

March 2012 , Volume 25 , Number  3
Pages  431 - 439

Ragiba Makandar,1,2 Vamsi J. Nalam,1 Hyeonju Lee,3 Harold N. Trick,3 Yanhong Dong,4 and Jyoti Shah1

1Department of Biological Sciences, University of North Texas, Denton 76203, U.S.A.; 2Department of Plant Sciences, University of Hyderabad, Gachibowli, Hyderabad, India; 3Department of Plant Pathology, Kansas State University, Manhattan 66506, U.S.A.; 4Department of Plant Pathology, University Minnesota, St. Paul 55108, U.S.A.

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Accepted 14 November 2011.

Fusarium head blight (FHB) is a destructive disease of cereal crops such as wheat and barley. Previously, expression in wheat of the Arabidopsis NPR1 gene (AtNPR1), which encodes a key regulator of salicylic acid (SA) signaling, was shown to reduce severity of FHB caused by Fusarium graminearum. It was hypothesized that SA signaling contributes to wheat defense against F. graminearum. Here, we show that increased accumulation of SA in fungus-infected spikes correlated with elevated expression of the SA-inducible pathogenesis-related 1 (PR1) gene and FHB resistance. In addition, FHB severity and mycotoxin accumulation were curtailed in wheat plants treated with SA and in AtNPR1 wheat, which is hyper-responsive to SA. In support of a critical role for SA in basal resistance to FHB, disease severity was higher in wheat expressing the NahG-encoded salicylate hydroxylase, which metabolizes SA. The FHB-promoting effect of NahG was overcome by application of benzo (1,2,3), thiadiazole-7 carbothioic acid S-methyl ester, a synthetic functional analog of SA, thus confirming an important role for SA signaling in basal resistance to FHB. We further demonstrate that jasmonate signaling has a dichotomous role in wheat interaction with F. graminearum, constraining activation of SA signaling during early stages of infection and promoting resistance during the later stages of infection.

© 2012 The American Phytopathological Society