First and third authors: Department of Molecular Biology and Ecology of Plants, The George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Israel 69978; and second author: Department of Plant Pathology and Weed Research, The Volcani Center, Agricultural Research Organization, Bet Dagan, Israel 20250.
Certain hypovirulent Rhizoctonia isolates effectively protect plants against well-known important pathogens among Rhizoctonia isolates as well as against other pathogens. The modes of action involved in this protection include resistance induced in plants by colonization with hypovirulent Rhizoctonia isolates. The qualifications of hypovirulent isolates (efficient protection, rapid growth, effective colonization of the plants, and easy application in the field) provide a significant potential for the development of a commercial microbial preparation for application as biological control agents. Understanding of the modes of action involved in protection is important for improving the various aspects of development and application of such preparations. The hypothesis of the present study is that resistance pathways such as systemic acquired resistance (SAR), induced systemic resistance (ISR), and phytoalexins are induced in plants colonized by the protective hypovirulent Rhizoctonia isolates and are involved in the protection of these plants against pathogenic Rhizoctonia. Changes in protection levels of Arabidopsis thaliana mutants defective in defense-related genes (npr1-1, npr1-2, ndr1-1, npr1-2/ndr1-1, cim6, wrky70.1, snc1, and pbs3-1) and colonized with the hypovirulent Rhizoctonia isolates compared with that of the wild type (wt) plants colonized with the same isolates confirmed the involvement of induced resistance in the protection of the plants against pathogenic Rhizoctonia spp., although protection levels of mutants constantly expressing SAR genes (snc1 and cim6) were lower than that of wt plants. Plant colonization by hypovirulent Rhizoctonia isolates induced elevated expression levels of the following genes: PR5 (SAR), PDF1.2, LOX2, LOX1, CORI3 (ISR), and PAD3 (phytoalexin production), which indicated that all of these pathways were induced in the hypovirulent-colonized plants. When SAR or ISR were induced separately in plants after application of the chemical inducers Bion and methyl jasmonate, respectively, only ISR activation resulted in a higher protection level against the pathogen, although the protection was minor. In conclusion, plant colonization with the protective hypovirulent Rhizoctonia isolates significantly induced genes involved in the SAR, ISR, and phytoalexin production pathways. In the studied system, SAR probably did not play a major role in the mode of protection against pathogenic Rhizoctonia spp.; however, it may play a more significant role in protection against other pathogens.