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Trichodiene production in a Trichoderma harzianum erg1-silenced strain provides evidence of the importance of the sterol biosynthetic pathway in inducing plant defense-related gene expression

M. G. Malmierca, S. P. McCormick, R. E. Cardoza, E. Monte, N. J. Alexander, S. Gutierrez
Molecular plant-microbe interactions 2015 v.28 no.11 pp. 1181-1197
Botrytis, Trichoderma harzianum, biochemical pathways, biological control, biological control agents, biosynthesis, cell membranes, elicitors, ergosterol, gene expression, gene induction, gene silencing, genes, plant pathogenic fungi, squalene, strains, terpenoids, tomatoes, virulence
Trichoderma species are often used as biocontrol agents against plant-pathogenic fungi. A complex molecular interaction occurs among the biocontrol agent, the antagonistic fungus, and the plant. Terpenes and sterols produced by the biocontrol fungus have been found to affect gene expression in both the antagonistic fungus and the plant. The terpene trichodiene (TD) elicits the expression of genes related to tomato defense and to Botrytis virulence. We show here that TD itself is able to induce the expression of Botrytis genes involved in the synthesis of botrydial (BOT) and also induces terpene gene expression in Trichoderma spp. The terpene ergosterol, in addition to its role as a structural component of the fungal cell membranes, acts as an elicitor of defense response in plants. In the present work, using a transformant of T. harzianum, which is silenced in the erg1 gene and accumulates high levels of squalene, we show that this ergosterol precursor also acts as an important elicitor molecule of tomato defense-related genes and induces Botrytis genes involved in BOT biosynthesis, in both cases, in a concentration-dependent manner. Our data emphasize the importance of a balance of squalene and ergosterol in fungal interactions as well as in the biocontrol activity of Trichoderma spp.