Plant-parasitic nematodes cause significant damage to major crops throughout the world. The small number of genes conferring natural plant resistance and the limitations of chemical control require the development of new protective strategies. RNA interference or the inducible over-expression of nematicidal genes provides an environment-friendly approach to this problem. Candidate genes include NGB, which encodes a small GTP-binding protein, and NAB/ERabp1, which encodes an auxin-binding protein, which were identified as being up-regulated in tomato roots in a transcriptome screen of potato cyst nematode (Globodera rostochiensis) feeding sites. Real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and in situ hybridization confirmed the localized up-regulation of these genes in syncytia and surrounding cells following nematode infection. Gene-silencing constructs were introduced into tomato, resulting in a 20%-98% decrease in transcription levels. Nematode infection tests conducted on transgenic plants showed 57%-82% reduction in the number of G. rostochiensis females in vitro and 30%-46% reduction in pot trials. Transmission electron microscopy revealed a deterioration of cytoplasm, and degraded mitochondria and plastids, in syncytia induced in plants with reduced NAB/ERabp1 expression. Cytoplasm in syncytia induced in plants with low NGB expression was strongly electron translucent and contained very few ribosomes; however, mitochondria and plastids remained intact. Functional impairments in syncytial cytoplasm of silenced plants may result from NGB's role in ribosome biogenesis; this was confirmed by localization of yellow fluorescent protein (YFP)-labelled NGB protein in nucleoli and co-repression of NGB in plants with reduced NAB/ERabp1 expression. These results demonstrate that NGB and NAB/ERabp1 play important roles in the development of nematode-induced syncytia.
Keywords: GTP-binding protein; Globodera; auxin-binding protein; gene silencing; tomato.
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