Department of Biochemistry, R.A.U. University, P.O. Box 524, Auckland Park 2006, South Africa
The biochemical basis of tolerance in banana to Fusarium wilt, caused by the pathogen Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense race four, was investigated. Tissue culture banana plants from tolerant cv. Goldfinger and susceptible cv. Williams were maintained in a hydroponic system and inoculated with conidial suspensions to evaluate the degree of tolerance to susceptibility between the two clones and to investigate the effectiveness of this technique as a potential tool for early screening for resistance in breeding programs. Similarly, defense responses were induced by treatment of the plants with an elicitor preparation from the mycelial cell walls of the pathogen. Differences in the induction of lignin and callose deposition, phenolics, and the enzymes involved in cell wall strengthening; phenylalanine ammonia lyase, cinnamyl alcohol dehydrogenase, peroxidase, and polyphenol oxidase were determined. Root tissue of the tolerant cv. Goldfinger responded to the fungal elicitor through the strong deposition of lignin, preceded by the induction or activation of the enzyme activities involved in the synthesis and polymerization thereof, whereas only slight increases were observed for the susceptible cv. Williams. No increase in callose content was observed for either clone. These results indicate an important role for cell wall strengthening due to the deposition of lignin as an inducible defense mechanism of banana roots against F. oxysporum f. sp. cubense race four.