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Project description

Understanding plant cellular responses to internally induced mechanical damage

Nematodes, or roundworms, are a major threat to global food crops. Endoparasitic cyst nematodes are a particularly economically important group of nematodes. They form cysts on plant roots and damage root vascular tissues with their syncytium, a specialised feeding structure. The plants’ cellular response to the mechanical damage is unknown, hindering the development of plants that resist the damage. With the support of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions programme the PREENER project will study the molecular responses to mechanical injury of cells surrounding the vascular tissues. The injury will be precisely induced using advanced microscopic technology and high-tech laser ablation. Better understanding of plant physical barrier measures will support development of resistant plants.


Plant-parasitic nematodes are microscopic organisms with exceptionally broad host range that pose major challenge to global agriculture, generate a predicted loss of 12.3 percent, equivalent to $157 billion each year. The losses caused by nematodes are further enhanced when they form disease-complexes with other microbes. Endoparasitic cyst nematodes are one of two most devastating groups, infecting the roots of economically important plants. The nematodes are a persistent problem because they have evolved an ability to secrete specific proteins to exploit the host plant’s development and suppress defense responses triggered by the plant. They begin feeding only after developing a specialized feeding structure (syncytium) inside the host root, by selecting a single cell near the innermost nutrient-rich vascular tissues, causing cellular injury by passing through multiple layers of different cell files. The majority of previous research has been on syncytium formation as infection proceeds. However, it is unknown how plants respond at the cellular level to the mechanical damage caused by nematodes, which prevents the creation of resistant plants to minimize crop losses. In the proposed study, cells from two internal consecutive cell layers surrounding the vascular tissues will be studied for their molecular responses to mechanical injury. The control of lignin and suberin production, which function as physical barriers against invading pathogens, will be studied in particular. Advanced microscopic technology will be utilized to accurately produce mechanical damage in selected internal root cells using a cutting-edge method called laser ablation. It will offer a strong platform for the creation of resistance agricultural plants against plant parasitic nematodes in the long run. The project will use a variety of high-tech multidisciplinary approaches to provide a framework for researching plant physical barrier measures against invasive plant diseases.


Net EU contribution
€ 222 727,68
750 07 Uppsala

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Östra Sverige Östra Mellansverige Uppsala län
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
No data

Partners (1)