Capsidiol, a defensive sesquiterpene produced by wild tobacco in response to attack from the fungal pathogen Alternaria alternata, is regulated by an ERF2-like transcription factor
Capsidiol is a sesquiterpenoid phytoalexin produced in Nicotiana and Capsicum species in response to pathogen attack. Whether capsidiol plays a defensive role and how its biosynthesis is regulated in the wild tobacco Nicotiana attenuata when the plant is attacked by Alternaria alternata (tobacco pathotype), a notorious necrotrophic fungus causing brown spot disease, is unknown. Transcriptome analysis indicated that a metabolic switch to sesquiterpene biosynthesis occurred in young leaves of N. attenuata after A. alternata inoculation: many genes leading to sesquiterpene production were strongly up-regulated, including the capsidiol biosynthetic genes, 5-epi-aristolochene synthase (EAS) and 5-epi-aristolochene hydroxylase (EAH). Consistently, the level of capsidiol was increased dramatically in young leaves after fungal inoculation, from not detectable in mock control to 50.68 ± 3.10 μg/g fresh leaves at 3 days post inoculation. Capsidiol-reduced or capsidiol-depleted plants, which were generated by silencing EAHs or EASs by virus-induced gene silencing, were more susceptible to the fungus. In addition, this sesquiterpene exhibited strong anti-fungal activities against A. alternata in vitro when purified from infected plants and applied to fungal growth. Furthermore, an ERF2-like transcription factor was found to positively regulate capsidiol production and plant resistance through the direct transactivation of a capsidiol biosynthetic gene EAS12. Taken together, our results demonstrate that capsidiol, a phytoalexin highly accumulated in N. attenuata plants in response to A. alternata infection, plays an important role in pathogen resistance independent of JA and ethylene signaling pathways, and its biosynthesis is transcriptionally regulated by an ERF2-like transcription factor.
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