Department of Nematology, University of California, Davis 95616, U.S.A.
Infective juveniles of the root-knot nematode Meloidogyne hapla are attracted to the zone of elongation of roots where they invade the host but little is known about what directs the nematode to this region of the root. We found that Arabidopsis roots exposed to an ethylene (ET)-synthesis inhibitor attracted significantly more nematodes than control roots and that ET-overproducing mutants were less attractive. Arabidopsis seedlings with ET-insensitive mutations were generally more attractive whereas mutations resulting in constitutive signaling were less attractive. Roots of the ET-insensitive tomato mutant Never ripe (Nr) were also more attractive, indicating that ET signaling also modulated attraction of root-knot nematodes to this host. ET-insensitive mutants have longer roots due to reduced basipetal auxin transport. However, assessments of Arabidopsis mutants that differ in various aspects of the ET response suggest that components of the ET-signaling pathway directly affecting root length are not responsible for modulating root attractiveness and that other components of downstream signaling result in changes in levels of attractants or repellents for M. hapla. These signals may aid in directing this pathogen to an appropriate host and invasion site for completing its life cycle.