In nature, beneficial and pathogenic fungi often simultaneously colonise plants. Despite substantial efforts to understand the composition of natural plant-microbe communities, the mechanisms driving such multipartite interactions remain largely unknown. Here we address how the interaction between the beneficial root endophyte Serendipita vermifera and the pathogen Bipolaris sorokiniana affects fungal behaviour and determines barley host responses using a gnotobiotic soil-based split-root system. Fungal confrontation in soil resulted in induction of B. sorokiniana genes involved in secondary metabolism and a significant repression of genes encoding putative effectors. In S. vermifera, genes encoding hydrolytic enzymes were strongly induced. This antagonistic response was not activated during the tripartite interaction in barley roots. Instead, we observed a specific induction of S. vermifera genes involved in detoxification and redox homeostasis. Pathogen infection but not endophyte colonisation resulted in substantial host transcriptional reprogramming and activation of defence. In the presence of S. vermifera, pathogen infection and disease symptoms were significantly reduced despite no marked alterations of the plant transcriptional response. The activation of stress response genes and concomitant repression of putative effector gene expression in B. sorokiniana during confrontation with the endophyte suggest a reduction of the pathogen's virulence potential before host plant infection.
Keywords: antagonism; diterpenoid metabolism; host defence; microbiota; phytoalexin.
© 2019 The Authors. New Phytologist © 2019 New Phytologist Trust.