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Desensitization of the perception system for chitin fragments in tomato cells

Felix, G., Baureithel, K., Boller, T.
Plant physiology 1998 v.117 no.2 pp. 643-650
Solanum lycopersicum var. lycopersicum, cell suspension culture, defense mechanisms, chitin, culture media, alkalinity, polymerization, Rhizobium leguminosarum, symbiosis, nodulation, oligosaccharides, bioassays, binding sites
Suspension-cultured tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum) cells react to stimulation by chitin fragments with a rapid, transient alkalinization of the growth medium, but behave refractory to a second treatment with the same stimulus (G. Felix, M. Regenass, T. Boller [1993] Plant J 4: 307-316). We analyzed this phenomenon and found that chitin fragments caused desensitization in a time- and concentration-dependent manner. Partially desensitized cells exhibited a clear shift toward lower sensitivity of the perception system. The ability of chitin oligomers to induce desensitization depended on the degree of polymerization (DP), with DP5 approximately DP4 >> DP3 >> DP2 > DP1. This correlates with the ability of these oligomers to induce the alkalinization response and to compete for the high-affinity binding site on tomato cells and microsomal membranes, indicating that the alkalinization response and the desensitization process are mediated by the same receptor. The dose required for half-maximal desensitization was about 20 times lower than the dose required for half-maximal alkalinization; desensitization could therefore be used as a highly sensitive bioassay for chitin fragments and chitin-related stimuli such as lipochitooligosaccharides (nodulation factors) from Rhizobium leguminosarum. Desensitization was not associated with increased inactivation of the stimulus or with a disappearance of high-affinity binding sites from the cell surface, and thus appears to be caused by an intermediate step in signal transduction.