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Sulphur supply impairs spread of Verticillium dahliae in tomato

Bollig, Katharina, Specht, André, Myint, San Shwe, Zahn, Marc, Horst, Walter J.
European journal of plant pathology 2013 v.135 no.1 pp. 81-96
Verticillium dahliae, crops, defense mechanisms, fungi, genotype, glutathione, leaves, metabolites, nutrition, phloem, photosynthesis, root growth, sap, shoots, sulfur, tomatoes, vascular wilt, wilting
Vascular wilt caused by the soil-borne fungus Verticillium dahliae is a major yield and quality-limiting disease across a broad spectrum of crop plants worldwide. Sulphur-enhanced plant defence mechanisms provide an opportunity to effectively and environmentally safely constrain the wilt disease levels in planta. To evaluate the influence of sulphur nutrition on the protective potential of these mechanisms, two near-isogenic tomato genotypes differing in fungal susceptibility, were treated with low or supra-optimal sulphur supply. Microscopic analysis revealed a significant sulphur-induced decrease in the amount of infected vascular cells in both genotypes. However, plant shoot and severely pathogen-affected root growth did not display this distinct alleviating influence of sulphur nutrition. Rates of leaf photosynthesis were impeded by Verticillium dahliae infection in both genotypes especially under low sulphur nutrition. However, assimilate transport rates in the phloem sap were enhanced by fungal infection more in the resistant genotype and under high sulphur nutrition suggesting a stronger sink for assimilates in infected plant tissues possibly involved in sugar-induced defence. A SYBR Green-based absolute quantitative Real-Time assay using a species-specific primer was developed which sensitively reflected sulphur nutrition-dependent changes in fungal colonization patterns. High sulphur nutrition significantly reduced fungal spread in the stem in both tomato genotypes. Concentrations of selected sulphur-containing metabolites revealed an increase of the major anti-oxidative redox buffer glutathione under high sulphur nutrition in response to fungal colonization. Our study demonstrates the existence of sulphur nutrition-enhanced resistance of tomato against Verticillium dahliae mediated by sulphur-containing defence compounds.