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The Pathogenic White-Rot Fungus Heterobasidion parviporum Responds to Spruce Xylem Defense by Enhanced Production of Oxalic Acid

November 2012 , Volume 25 , Number  11
Pages  1,450 - 1,458

Nina Elisabeth Nagy, Harald Kvaalen, Monica Fongen, Carl Gunnar Fossdal, Nicholas Clarke, Halvor Solheim, and Ari M. Hietala

Norwegian Forest and Landscape Institute, Ås, Norway

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Accepted 11 July 2012.

Pathogen challenge of tree sapwood induces the formation of reaction zones with antimicrobial properties such as elevated pH and cation content. Many fungi lower substrate pH by secreting oxalic acid, its conjugate base oxalate being a reductant as well as a chelating agent for cations. To examine the role of oxalic acid in pathogenicity of white-rot fungi, we conducted spatial quantification of oxalate, transcript levels of related fungal genes, and element concentrations in heartwood of Norway spruce challenged naturally by Heterobasidion parviporum. In the pathogen-compromised reaction zone, upregulation of an oxaloacetase gene generating oxalic acid coincided with oxalate and cation accumulation and presence of calcium oxalate crystals. The colonized inner heartwood showed trace amounts of oxalate. Moreover, fungal exposure to the reaction zone under laboratory conditions induced oxaloacetase and oxalate accumulation, whereas heartwood induced a decarboxylase gene involved in degradation of oxalate. The excess level of cations in defense xylem inactivates pathogen-secreted oxalate through precipitation and, presumably, only after cation neutralization can oxalic acid participate in lignocellulose degradation. This necessitates enhanced production of oxalic acid by H. parviporum. This study is the first to determine the true influence of white-rot fungi on oxalate crystal formation in tree xylem.

© 2012 The American Phytopathological Society