Plants recognize potential microbial pathogens through microbial-associated molecular patterns (MAMPs) and activate a series of defense responses, including cell death and the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and diverse anti-microbial secondary metabolites. Mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascades are known to play a pivotal role in mediating MAMP signals; however, the signaling pathway from a MAPK cascade to the activation of defense responses is poorly understood. Here, we found in rice that the chitin elicitor, a fungal MAMP, activates two rice MAPKs (OsMPK3 and OsMPK6) and one MAPK kinase (OsMKK4). OsMPK6 was essential for the chitin elicitor-induced biosynthesis of diterpenoid phytoalexins. Conditional expression of the active form of OsMKK4 (OsMKK4(DD) ) induced extensive alterations in gene expression, which implied dynamic changes of metabolic flow from glycolysis to secondary metabolite biosynthesis while suppressing basic cellular activities such as translation and cell division. OsMKK4(DD) also induced various defense responses, such as cell death, biosynthesis of diterpenoid phytoalexins and lignin but not generation of extracellular ROS. OsMKK4(DD) -induced cell death and expression of diterpenoid phytoalexin pathway genes, but not that of phenylpropanoid pathway genes, were dependent on OsMPK6. Collectively, the OsMKK4-OsMPK6 cascade plays a crucial role in reprogramming plant metabolism during MAMP-triggered defense responses.
© 2010 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.