Compounds that establish induced resistance (IR) in plants are promising alternatives for the pesticides that are progressively being banned worldwide. Screening platforms to identify IR-establishing compounds have been developed, but none were specifically designed for monocot plants. Here, we propose the use of an RT-qPCR screening platform, based on conserved immunity marker genes of rice as proxy for IR induction. Central regulators of biotic stress responses of rice were identified with a weighted gene co-expression network analysis (WGCNA), using more than 350 microarray datasets of rice under various sorts of biotic stress. Candidate genes were narrowed down to six immunity marker genes, based on consistent association with pattern-triggered immunity (PTI), both in rice plants as in rice cell suspension cultures (RCSCs). By monitoring the expression of these genes in RCSCs upon treatment with candidate IR-inducing compounds, we showed that our marker genes can predict IR induction in rice. Diproline, a novel IR-establishing compound for monocots that was detected with these marker genes, was shown to induce rice resistance against root-knot nematodes, without fitness costs. Gene expression profiling of the here-described PTI-marker genes can be executed on fully-grown plants or in RCSCs, providing a novel and versatile tool to predict IR induction.
Keywords: WGCNA; induced resistance; nematode–rice interactions; rice cell suspension cultures.