Increased tolerance to Phytophthora cinnamomi in offspring of ink-diseased chestnut (Castanea sativa Miller) trees
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Increased tolerance to Phytophthora cinnamomi was observed in small-sized offspring of ink-diseased chestnut trees, suggesting that a virulent pathogen can trigger a defence response of trees in the subsequent generation. Increased tolerance to water stress was not observed in offspring of chestnut trees.
In sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa Miller), P. cinnamomi Rands is responsible for the widespread and destructive ink disease.
We investigated if the susceptibility of C. sativa to water stress and P. cinnamomi depends on the health status of mother trees.
Plants were grown from seeds collected from healthy and ink-diseased chestnut trees. Leaf wilting after drought exposure and plant mortality after pathogen inoculation were assessed.
Offspring of ink-diseased trees had poorer performance in plant height and root biomass than offspring of healthy trees, with allocation of biomass to seeds mediating this effect. Leaf wilting due to water stress was similar in offspring of healthy and P. cinnamomi-infected trees. However, increased tolerance to P. cinnamomi was observed in small-sized seedlings, suggesting that tolerance in C. sativa may involve growth costs. This is the first report of increased tolerance to P. cinnamomi in plants germinating from a diseased tree.
The results suggest that an invasive pathogen can regulate the performance and prime a defence response of a forest tree species in the subsequent generation, and generate conflicting selection pressures related to plant size.
KeywordsTree regeneration Maternal effects Invasive pathogen Priming Stress memory
The authors are grateful to José Miguel Sillero and Ester Vega for assistance during field sampling, Francisco de Dios, Francisco Javier Dorado and Francisco Alcaide for technical assistance during plant assessment, and Jane McGrath for English editing of the manuscript. They also thank Dr. Santiago Catalá and Dr. Paloma Abad-Campos (Polytechnic University of Valencia) for soil sampling and confirming the presence/absence of Phytophthora cinnamomi under the chestnut trees, and Dr. Susana Serrazina, Dr. Rita Costa and Dr. Carmen Santos for the help in selecting the study genes.
This work was funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness [AGL2014-53822-C2-1-R] and the European Union’s European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) ‘A way to achieve Europe’ and the Government of Extremadura (Ref. GR18193). MAM Martín is grateful to the Secretaría General de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación, Regional Government of Extremadura (Spain), for financial assistance (‘Atracción de Talento Investigador’ Programme). JO was supported by a ‘Ramon y Cajal’ fellowship (RYC-2015-17459).
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.
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