Trichoderma virens is a biocontrol agent used in agriculture to antagonize pathogens of crop plants. In addition to direct mycoparasitism of soil-borne fungal pathogens, T. virens interacts with roots. This interaction induces systemic resistance (ISR), which reduces disease in aboveground parts of the plant. In the molecular dialog between fungus and plant leading to ISR, proteins secreted by T. virens provide signals. Only a few such proteins have been characterized previously. To study the secretome, proteins were characterized from hydroponic culture systems with T. virens alone or with maize seedlings, and combined with a bioassay for ISR in maize leaves infected by the pathogen Cochliobolus heterostrophus. The secreted protein fraction from coculture of maize roots and T. virens (Tv+M) was found to have a higher ISR activity than from T. virens grown alone (Tv). A total of 280 fungal proteins were identified, 66 showing significant differences in abundance between the two conditions: 32 were higher in Tv+M and 34 were higher in Tv. Among the 34 found in higher abundance in Tv and negatively regulated by roots were 13 SSCPs (small, secreted, cysteine rich proteins), known to be important in the molecular dialog between plants and fungi. The role of four SSCPs in ISR was studied by gene knockout. All four knockout lines showed better ISR activity than WT without affecting colonization of maize roots. Furthermore, the secreted protein fraction from each of the mutant lines showed improved ISR activity compared with WT. These SSCPs, apparently, act as negative effectors reducing the defense levels in the plant and may be important for the fine tuning of ISR by Trichoderma. The down-regulation of SSCPs in interaction with plant roots implies a revision of the current model for the Trichoderma-plant symbiosis and its induction of resistance to pathogens.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Analytical Chemistry
- Molecular Biology