Global gene expression profiling during Medicago truncatula-Phymatotrichopsis omnivora interaction reveals a role for jasmonic acid, ethylene, and the flavonoid pathway in disease development

Mol Plant Microbe Interact. 2009 Jan;22(1):7-17. doi: 10.1094/MPMI-22-1-0007.


Phymatotrichopsis omnivora (Duggar) Hennebert causes a destructive root rot in cotton, alfalfa (Medicago sativa), and many other dicot species. No consistently effective control measures or resistant host germplasm for Phymatotrichum root rot (PRR) are known. The relative genetic intractability of cotton and alfalfa precludes their use as model pathosystem hosts for P. omnivora. Therefore, we used the model legume M. truncatula and its available genetic and genomic resources to investigate PRR. Confocal imaging of P. omnivora interactions with M. truncatula roots revealed that the mycelia do not form any specialized structures for penetration and mainly colonize cortical cells and, eventually, form a mycelial mantle covering the root's surfaces. Expression profiling of M. truncatula roots infected by P. omnivora identified several upregulated genes, including the pathogenesis-related class I and class IV chitinases and genes involved in reactive oxygen species generation and phytohormone (jasmonic acid and ethylene) signaling. Genes involved in flavonoid biosynthesis were induced (2.5- to 10-fold over mock-inoculated controls) at 3 days postinoculation (dpi) in response to fungal penetration. However, the expression levels of flavonoid biosynthesis genes returned to the basal levels with the progress of the disease at 5 dpi. These transcriptome results, confirmed by real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction analyses, showed that P. omnivora apparently evades induced host defenses and may downregulate phytochemical defenses at later stages of infection to favor pathogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Ascomycota / physiology*
  • Cyclopentanes / metabolism
  • Ethylenes / metabolism
  • Flavonoids / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Profiling / methods*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Medicago truncatula / genetics*
  • Medicago truncatula / microbiology*
  • Medicago truncatula / ultrastructure
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Oxylipins / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Cyclopentanes
  • Ethylenes
  • Flavonoids
  • Oxylipins
  • jasmonic acid
  • ethylene