Infection by necrotrophs is a complex process that starts with the breakdown of the cell wall (CW) matrix initiated by CW-degrading enzymes and results in an extensive tissue maceration. Plants exploit induced defense mechanisms based on biochemical modification of the CW components to protect themselves from enzymatic degradation. The pectin matrix is the main CW target of Botrytis cinerea, and pectin methylesterification status is strongly altered in response to infection. The methylesterification of pectin is controlled mainly by pectin methylesterases (PMEs), whose activity is posttranscriptionally regulated by endogenous protein inhibitors (PMEIs). Here, AtPMEI10, AtPMEI11, and AtPMEI12 are identified as functional PMEIs induced in Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) during B. cinerea infection. AtPMEI expression is strictly regulated by jasmonic acid and ethylene signaling, while only AtPMEI11 expression is controlled by PME-related damage-associated molecular patterns, such as oligogalacturonides and methanol. The decrease of pectin methylesterification during infection is higher and the immunity to B. cinerea is compromised in pmei10, pmei11, and pmei12 mutants with respect to the control plants. A higher stimulation of the fungal oxalic acid biosynthetic pathway also can contribute to the higher susceptibility of pmei mutants. The lack of PMEI expression does not affect hemicellulose strengthening, callose deposition, and the synthesis of structural defense proteins, proposed as CW-remodeling mechanisms exploited by Arabidopsis to resist CW degradation upon B. cinerea infection. We show that PME activity and pectin methylesterification are dynamically modulated by PMEIs during B. cinerea infection. Our findings point to AtPMEI10, AtPMEI11, and AtPMEI12 as mediators of CW integrity maintenance in plant immunity.
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