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Boosting plant defence by Arbuscular Mycorrhizal fungi: Induced Resistance and signalling pathways involved


Plants develop an enhanced defensive capacity against pathogen attack after colonization of the roots by selected strains of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF). This induced systemic resistance (ISR) is effective against a broad spectrum of plant pathogens and provides an attractive tool for the development of durable and environmentally friendly strategies for crop protection.

Elucidation of the mechanisms by which plants perceive and respond to soil-microorganisms that stimulate their natural defences against pathogens will provide more insight into how plants can be helped to defend themselves against pathogen attack. Different inducible defence mechanisms are found in plants, regulated through a complex network of signalling pathways that involve three molecules: salicylic acid (SA), jasmonic acid (JA) and ethylene (ET).

The different pathways enable the plant to fine-tune its resistance reaction to the microorganism encountered. In some systems it has been demonstrated that induced plants show a faster and greater activation of defence responses after infection with a challenging pathogen - a phenomenon called 'potentiation' or 'priming'-. Little is known about the control of the defence responses during the arbuscular mycorrhizal association, and if a potentiation effect occurs during the mycorrhiza-mediated ISR remains unstudied.

The present proposal aims to generate knowledge about the genetic control of the plant defence-related processes underlying plant AMF interaction and ISR. Changes in gene express ion under different conditions related to mycorrhizal colonization and induced resistance will be studied using tomato as a model plant and microarray technology.

The results will contribute to unravel the signalling pathways and mechanisms involved in the induction of resistance by AMF, with the final goal of improving plant protection by the rational exploitation of natural resources such as beneficial organisms able to boost plant defences.

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