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Treatment with the Mycoparasite Pythium oligandrum Triggers Induction of Defense-Related Reactions in Tomato Roots When Challenged with Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. radicis-lycopersici

    Authors and Affiliations
    • Nicole Benhamou
    • Patrice Rey
    • Mohamed Chérif
    • John Hockenhull
    • Yves Tirilly

      The influence exerted by the mycoparasite Pythium oligandrum in triggering plant defense reactions was investigated using an experimental system in which tomato plants were infected with the crown and root rot pathogen Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. radicis-lycopersici. To assess the antagonistic potential of P. oligandrum against F. oxysporum f. sp. radicis-lycopersici, the interaction between the two fungi was studied by scanning and transmission electron microscopy (SEM and TEM, respectively). SEM investigations of the interaction region between the fungi demonstrated that collapse and loss of turgor of F. oxysporum f. sp. radicis-lycopersici hyphae began soon after close contact was established with P. oligandrum. Ultrastructural observations confirmed that intimate contact between hyphae of P. oligandrum and cells of the pathogen resulted in a series of disturbances, including generalized disorganization of the host cytoplasm, retraction of the plasmalemma, and, finally, complete loss of the protoplasm. Cytochemical labeling of chitin with wheat germ agglutinin (WGA)/ovomucoid-gold complex showed that, except in the area of hyphal penetration, the chitin component of the host cell walls was structurally preserved at a time when the host cytoplasm had undergone complete disorganization. Interestingly, the same antagonistic process was observed in planta. The specific labeling patterns obtained with the exoglucanase-gold and WGA-ovomucoid-gold complexes confirmed that P. oligandrum successfully penetrated invading cells of the pathogen without causing substantial cell wall alterations, shown by the intense labeling of chitin. Cytological investigations of samples from P. oligandrum-inoculated tomato roots revealed that the fungus was able to colonize root tissues without inducing extensive cell damage. However, there was a novel finding concerning the structural alteration of the invading hyphae, evidenced by the frequent occurrence of empty fungal shells in root tissues. Pythium ingress in root tissues was associated with host metabolic changes, culminating in the elaboration of structural barriers at sites of potential fungal penetration. Striking differences in the extent of F. oxysporum f. sp. radicis-lycopersici colonization were observed between P. oligandrum-inoculated and control tomato plants. In control roots, the pathogen multiplied abundantly through much of the tissues, whereas in P. oligandrum-colonized roots pathogen growth was restricted to the outermost root tissues. This restricted pattern of pathogen colonization was accompanied by deposition of newly formed barriers beyond the infection sites. These host reactions appeared to be amplified compared to those seen in nonchallenged P. oligandrum-infected plants. Most hyphae of the pathogen that penetrated the epidermis exhibited considerable changes. Wall appositions contained large amounts of callose, in addition to be infiltrated with phenolic compounds. The labeling pattern obtained with gold-complexed laccase showed that phenolics were widely distributed in Fusarium-challenged P. oligandrum-inoculated tomato roots. Such compounds accumulated in the host cell walls and intercellular spaces. The wall-bound chitin component in Fusarium hyphae colonizing P. oligandrum-inoculated roots was preserved at a time when hyphae had undergone substantial degradation. These observations provide the first convincing evidence that P. oligandrum has the potential to induce plant defense reactions in addition to acting as a mycoparasite.