Gene expression studies in roots of apple replant disease affected plants suggested defense reactions towards biotic stress to occur which did not lead to adequate responses to the biotic stressors. Apple replant disease (ARD) leads to growth inhibition and fruit yield reduction in replanted populations and results in economic losses for tree nurseries and fruit producers. The etiology is not well understood on a molecular level and causal agents show a great diversity indicating that no definitive cause, which applies to the majority of cases, has been found out yet. Hence, it is pivotal to gain a better understanding of the molecular and physiological reactions of the plant when affected by ARD and later to overcome the disease, for example by developing tolerant rootstocks. For the first time, gene expression was investigated in roots of ARD affected plants employing massive analysis of cDNA ends (MACE) and RT-qPCR. In reaction to ARD, genes in secondary metabolite production as well as plant defense, regulatory and signaling genes were upregulated whereas for several genes involved in primary metabolism lower expression was detected. For internal verification of MACE data, candidate genes were tested via RT-qPCR and a strong positive correlation between both datasets was observed. Comparison of apple 'M26' roots cultivated in ARD soil or γ-irradiated ARD soil suggests that typical defense reactions towards biotic stress take place in ARD affected plants but they did not allow responding to the biotic stressors attack adequately, leading to the observed growth depressions in ARD variants.
Keywords: Biotic stress response; Gene expression; Growth depression; MACE; Phytoalexins; Plant defense; Quantitative real-time PCR.