Submitted to: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/5/2001
Publication Date: 6/5/2001
Citation: Dickman, M.B., Park, Y.K., Oltersdorf, T., Clemente, T., French, R.C. 2001. Modulation of plant-pathogen interactions by animal anti-apoptotic genes. Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences. Proc. Natl Acad Sci USA 98:6957-6962. Interpretive Summary: Previous studies on worm development revealed that certain cells die in a genetically programmed way. Subsequently it was shown that all animals have similar sets of genes that control programmed cell death during development and defense against disease agents. It has been suspected that plants might have similar cell death pathways but this has not been proven. Our approach hwas to introduce a set of related genes that are known to inhibit programmed cell death into tobacco. We found that all three genes made plants resistant to several fungal and viral pathogens which normally kill infected plant tissues. Given that these inhibitory genes function in plants, a search for the plant components of programmed cell death pathways can begin. These genes may be a new source of effective disease resistance genes for crop plants.
Technical Abstract: An emerging question in plant biology is whether plants display analogous elements of mammalian programmed cell death during development and defense against pathogen attack. Transgenic tobacco plants have been generated that carry animal genes which negatively regulate apoptosis. Plants expressing mammalian Bcl-2 and Bcl-xl, nematode CED-9 or baculovirus Op-IAP transgenes sconfer heritable resistance to several necrotrophic fungal pathogens suggesting that disease development requires host cell death pathways. In addition, the transgenic tobacco plants also displayed resistance to several viruses. Importantly, transgenic tobacco harboring Bcl-xl with a loss-of-function mutation did not protect against pathogen challenge. Taken together our data indicate that these anti-apoptotic genes function in plants and should be useful to delineate resistance pathways. These genes also have the potential to generate effective disease resistance in economically important crops.