, Volume 204, Issue 2, pp 153-168

Induction of resistance against Fusarium wilt of tomato by combination of chitosan with an endophytic bacterial strain: ultrastructure and cytochemistry of the host response

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The potential of Bacillus pumilus (PGPR strain SE 34), either alone or in combination with chitosan, for inducing defense reactions in tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) plants inoculated with the vascular fungus, Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. radicis-lycopersici, was studied by light and transmission electron microscopy and further investigated by gold cytochemistry. The key importance of fungal challenge in the elaboration of defense mechanisms is discussed in relation to the possibility that an alarm signal provided by the pathogen itself is required for the expression of resistance in plants previously sensitized by biotic agents. Ultrastructural investigations of the infected root tissues from water-treated (control) plants showed a rapid colonization of all tissues including the vascular stele. In root tissues from bacterized tomato plants grown in the absence of chitosan, the limited fungal development coincided with marked changes in the host physiology. The main facets of the altered host metabolism concerned the induction of a structural response at sites of fungal entry and the abnormal accumulation of electron-dense substances in the colonized areas. A substantial increase in the extent and magnitude of the cellular changes induced by B. pumilus was observed when chitosan was supplied to bacterized tomato plants. These changes were characterized by a considerable enlargement of the callose-enriched wall appositions deposited onto the inner cell wall surface in the epidermis and the outer cortex. The use of the wheat germ agglutinin-ovomucoid-gold complex provided evidence that the wall-bound chitin component in Fusarium cells colonizing bacterized tomato roots was not substantially altered. One of the most-typical fungal cell reactions, observed only when bacterized tomato plants were grown in the presence of chitosan, was the formation of abnormal chitin-enriched deposits between the retracted plasma membrane and the cell wall. Results of the present study provide the first evidence that combination of biocontrol approaches is a promising step towards elaborating integrated pest management programmes.