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Pinpointing the role of auxin, a phytohormone, in the induction of feeding sites by nematodes

To study the role of the phytohormone auxin in nematode feeding cell induction and early development, the transcriptional regulation of the auxin-responsive promoter element DR5 was monitored in Arabidopsis thaliana roots infected with cyst or root-knot nematodes. For both nematode species, a specific and strong activation of DR5:gusA was observed inside the initial cells at 18 hours post inoculation, pointing at an increase of the perceived auxin concentration.

This high expression was maintained until 3-5 days post inoculation and subsequently the GUS staining was reduced. Cyst and root-knot nematodes are distantly related (belonging to different families) and the feeding sites they induce are highly dissimilar. In this respect, the similarities between the two nematode-induced DR5 activation patterns in A. thaliana roots are remarkable. A transient and local increase in auxin perception could be due to an accumulation or to an increased sensitivity. Based on previously published data, a local auxin accumulation seems to be the more probable explanation.

The observed specific and transient increase of the perceived IAA concentration in the initial feeding structure could be an important clue in the elucidation of the molecular mechanisms underlying feeding cell induction by plant parasitic nematodes, a fascinating but still poorly understood phenomenon.

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