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  • Anil Kumar, 
  • Natalia Sichov, 
  • Patricia Bucki  
  • Sigal Brown Miyara 

The involvement of WRKY transcription factors in plant-nematode interactions, and in particular, how these WRKYs participate in regulating the complex morphological and physiological changes occurring after nematode infection, are the topic of active research. We characterized the functional role of the unstudied tomato WRKY genes SlWRKY16 and SlWRKY31 in regulating tomato roots’ response to infection by the root-knot nematode Meloidogyne javanica. Using promoter–GUS reporter gene fusions and qRT-PCR, we show that both SlWRKYs are predominantly expressed during the first half of the parasitic life stages, when feeding-site induction and construction occur. Expression of SlWRKY16 increased sharply 15 days after inoculation, whereas SlWRKY31 was already induced earlier, but reached its maximum expression at this time. Both genes were downregulated at the mature female stage. To determine biological function, we produced transgenic lines overexpressing SlWRKY16 and SlWRKY31 in tomato hairy roots. Overexpression of both genes resulted in enhanced M. javanica infection, reflected by increased galling occurrence and reproduction. Expression profiling of marker genes responsive to defense-associated phytohormones indicated reductions in salicylic acid defense-related PR-1 and jasmonic acid defense-related PI in inoculated roots overexpressing SlWRK16 and SlWRKY31, respectively. Our results suggest that SlWRKY16 and SlWRKY31 function as negative regulators of plant immunity induced upon nematode infection.

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SlWRKY16 and SlWRKY31 of tomato, negative regulators of plant defense, involved in susceptibility activation following root-knot nematode Meloidogyne javanica infection
  • Anil Kumar, 
  • Natalia Sichov, 
  • Patricia Bucki  
  • Sigal Brown Miyara 
SlWRKY16 and SlWRKY31 of tomato, negative regulators of plant defense, involved in susceptibility activation following root-knot nematode Meloidogyne javanica infection

The involvement of WRKY transcription factors in plant-nematode interactions, and in particular, how these WRKYs participate in regulating the complex morphological and physiological changes occurring after nematode infection, are the topic of active research. We characterized the functional role of the unstudied tomato WRKY genes SlWRKY16 and SlWRKY31 in regulating tomato roots’ response to infection by the root-knot nematode Meloidogyne javanica. Using promoter–GUS reporter gene fusions and qRT-PCR, we show that both SlWRKYs are predominantly expressed during the first half of the parasitic life stages, when feeding-site induction and construction occur. Expression of SlWRKY16 increased sharply 15 days after inoculation, whereas SlWRKY31 was already induced earlier, but reached its maximum expression at this time. Both genes were downregulated at the mature female stage. To determine biological function, we produced transgenic lines overexpressing SlWRKY16 and SlWRKY31 in tomato hairy roots. Overexpression of both genes resulted in enhanced M. javanica infection, reflected by increased galling occurrence and reproduction. Expression profiling of marker genes responsive to defense-associated phytohormones indicated reductions in salicylic acid defense-related PR-1 and jasmonic acid defense-related PI in inoculated roots overexpressing SlWRK16 and SlWRKY31, respectively. Our results suggest that SlWRKY16 and SlWRKY31 function as negative regulators of plant immunity induced upon nematode infection.

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