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Partida-Martinez L.P.,Research Center Estudios Avanzados Irapuato | Heil M.,Research Center Estudios Avanzados Irapuato
Frontiers in Plant Science

Plant-microbe interactions are ubiquitous. Plants are threatened by pathogens, but they are even more commonly engaged in neutral or mutualistic interactions with microbes: belowground microbial plant associates are mycorrhizal fungi, Rhizobia, and plant-growth promoting rhizosphere bacteria, aboveground plant parts are colonized by internally living bacteria and fungi (endophytes) and by microbes in the phyllosphere (epiphytes). We emphasize here that a completely microbe-free plant is an exotic exception rather than the biologically relevant rule. The complex interplay of such microbial communities with the host-plant affects multiple vital parameters such as plant nutrition, growth rate, resistance to biotic and abiotic stressors, and plant survival and distribution. The mechanisms involved reach from direct ones such as nutrient acquisition, the production of plant hormones, or direct antibiosis, to indirect ones that are mediated by effects on host resistance genes or via interactions at higher trophic levels. Plant-associated microbes are heterotrophic and cause costs to their host plant, whereas the benefits depend on the current environment. Thus, the outcome of the interaction for the plant host is highly context dependent. We argue that considering the microbe-free plant as the "normal" or control stage significantly impairs research into important phenomena such as (1) phenotypic and epigenetic plasticity, (2) the "normal" ecological outcome of a given interaction, and (3) the evolution of plants. For the future, we suggest cultivation-independent screening methods using direct PCR from plant tissue of more than one fungal and bacterial gene to collect data on the true microbial diversity in wild plants. The patterns found could be correlated to host species and environmental conditions, in order to formulate testable hypotheses on the biological roles of plant endophytes in nature. Experimental approaches should compare different host-endophyte combinations under various relevant environmental conditions and study at the genetic, epigenetic, transcriptional, and physiological level the parameters that cause the interaction to shift along the mutualism-parasitism continuum. © 2011 Partida-Martínez and Heil. Source

Gonzalez-Teuber M.,University of Duisburg - Essen | Pozo M.J.,CSIC - Experimental Station of El Zaidin | Muck A.,Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology | Svatos A.,Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology | And 3 more authors.
Plant Physiology

Nectars are rich in primary metabolites and attract mutualistic animals, which serve as pollinators or as an indirect defense against herbivores. Their chemical composition makes nectars prone to microbial infestation. As protective strategy, floral nectar of ornamental tobacco (Nicotiana langsdorffii 3 Nicotiana sanderae) contains "nectarins," proteins producing reactive oxygen species such as hydrogen peroxide. By contrast, pathogenesis-related (PR) proteins were detected in Acacia extrafloral nectar (EFN), which is secreted in the context of defensive ant-plant mutualisms. We investigated whether these PR proteins protect EFN from phytopathogens. Five sympatric species (Acacia cornigera, A. hindsii, A. collinsii, A. farnesiana, and Prosopis juliflora) were compared that differ in their ant-plant mutualism. EFN of myrmecophytes, which are obligate ant-plants that secrete EFN constitutively to nourish specialized ant inhabitants, significantly inhibited the growth of four out of six tested phytopathogenic microorganisms. By contrast, EFN of nonmyrmecophytes, which is secreted only transiently in response to herbivory, did not exhibit a detectable inhibitory activity. Combining two-dimensional sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis with nanoflow liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry analysis confirmed that PR proteins represented over 90% of all proteins in myrmecophyte EFN. The inhibition of microbial growth was exerted by the protein fraction, but not the small metabolites of this EFN, and disappeared when nectar was heated. In-gel assays demonstrated the activity of acidic and basic chitinases in all EFNs, whereas glucanases were detected only in EFN of myrmecophytes. Our results demonstrate that PR proteins causally underlie the protection of Acacia EFN from microorganisms and that acidic and basic glucanases likely represent the most important prerequisite in this defensive function. © 2009 American Society of Plant Biologists. Source

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