, Volume 46, Issue 3, pp 313-323

Inducible expression of bacterio-opsin in transgenic tobacco and tomato plants

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Abstract

The development of new strategies to enhance resistance of plants to pathogens is instrumental in preventing agricultural losses. Lesion mimic, the spontaneous formation of lesions resembling hypersensitive response lesions in the absence of a pathogen, is a dramatic phenotype occasionally induced upon expression of certain transgenes in plants. These transgenes simulate the presence of a pathogen and, therefore, activate the plant anti-pathogen defense mechanisms and induce a state of systemic resistance. Lesion mimic genes have been successfully used to enhance the resistance of a number of different plants to pathogen attack. However, constitutive expression of these genes in plants is associated with the spontaneous formation of lesions on leaves and stems, reduced growth, and lower yield. We tested the possibility of using a wound-inducible promoter to control the expression of bacterio-opsin (bO), a transgene that confers a lesion mimic phenotype in tobacco and tomato plants when constitutively expressed. We found that plants with inducible expression of bO did not develop spontaneous lesions. Nevertheless, under controlled laboratory conditions, they were found to be resistant to infection by pathogens. The activation of defense mechanisms by the bO gene was not constitutive, and occurred in response to wounding or pathogen infection. Furthermore, wounding of transgenic tobacco plants resulted in the induction of systemic resistance to pathogen attack within 48 h. Our findings provide a promising initial assessment for the use of wound-inducible promoters as a new strategy to enhance pathogen resistance in transgenic crops by means of lesion mimic genes.