Combined Abiotic Stresses Repress Defense and Cell Wall Metabolic Genes and Render Plants More Susceptible to Pathogen Infection

Plants (Basel). 2021 Sep 18;10(9):1946. doi: 10.3390/plants10091946.


Plants are frequently exposed to simultaneous abiotic and biotic stresses, a condition that induces complex responses, negatively affects crop productivity and is becoming more exacerbated with current climate change. In this study, we investigated the effects of individual and combined heat and osmotic stresses on Arabidopsis susceptibility to the biotrophic pathogen Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato (Pst) and the necrotrophic pathogen Botrytiscinerea (Bc). Our data showed that combined abiotic and biotic stresses caused an enhanced negative impact on plant disease resistance in comparison with individual Pst and Bc infections. Pretreating plants with individual heat or combined osmotic-heat stress strongly reduced the expression of many defense genes including pathogenesis-related proteins (PR-1 and PR-5) and the TN-13 gene encoding the TIR-NBS protein, which are involved in disease resistance towards Pst. We also found that combined osmotic-heat stress caused high plant susceptibility to Bc infection and reduced expression of a number of defense genes, including PLANT DEFENSIN 1.3 (PDF1.3), BOTRYTIS SUSCEPTIBLE 1 (BOS1) and THIONIN 2.2 (THI2.2) genes, which are important for disease resistance towards Bc. The impaired disease resistance against both Pst and Bc under combined abiotic stress is associated with reduced expression of cell wall-related genes. Taken together, our data emphasize that the combination of global warming-associated abiotic stresses such as heat and osmotic stresses makes plants more susceptible to pathogen infection, thus threatening future global food security.

Keywords: Botrytis cinerea; Pseudomonas syringae; abiotic stress; climate change; disease resistance; heat stress; osmotic stress.