Reliable methods for disease severity assessment are of crucial importance in the study of plant pathogen interactions, either for disease diagnostic on the field or to assess phenotypical differences in plants or pathogen strains. Currently, most of the assays used in fungal disease diagnostic rely on visual assessment of the symptoms, lesion diameter measurement or spore counting. However, these tests are tedious and often cannot discriminate between slightly different levels of resistance. Besides, they are not well suited to assess fungal development in the early phases of the infection, before macroscopical symptoms are visible or before sporulation. We describe here a pathogenicity assay based on the relative quantification of fungal and plant DNA in infected Arabidopsis thaliana leaves by means of real-time quantitative PCR. We show that it allows to monitor quantitatively the growth of the fungi Alternaria brassicicola and Botrytis cinerea in a sensitive and reliable way. Although highly sensitive, this test also exhibits a high robustness, which is crucial to significantly discriminate between lines displaying slightly different levels of resistance. Therefore, it allows to assess fungal development from the very first stages of infection and provides a fast and very practical alternative to currently described assays for phenotyping either plant mutant lines or fungal strains.
Copyright 2004 Elsevier SAS