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Involvement of structurally distinct cupuassu chitinases and osmotin in plant resistance to the fungus Moniliophthora perniciosa

Santana Silva R.J., Alves R.M., Peres Gramacho K., Marcellino L.H., Micheli F.. 2020. Plant Physiology and Biochemistry, 148 : p. 142-151.

The cupuassu tree (Theobroma grandiflorum) is a crop of great economic importance to Brazil, mainly for its pulp and seeds, which are used in food industry. However, cupuassu fruit production is threatened by witches' broom disease caused by the fungus Moniliophthora perniciosa. As elements of its defense mechanisms, the plant can produce and accumulate pathogenesis-related (PR) proteins such as chitinases and osmotins. Here, we identified three cupuassu PR proteins (TgPR3, TgPR5 and TgPR8) from cupuassu-M. perniciosa interaction RNA-seq data. TgPR3 and TgPR8 corresponded to chitinases, and TgPR5 to osmotin; they are phylogenetically related to cacao and to Arabidopsis PR sequences involved in biotic and abiotic stress. The TgPR proteins' tridimensional structure was obtained through homology modeling, and molecular docking with chitin and chitosan showed that the TgPR proteins can interact with both cell wall molecules and presented a higher affinity for chitosan. TgPR gene expression was analyzed by RT-qPCR on resistant and susceptible cupuassu genotypes infected by M. perniciosa at 8, 24, 48 and 72 h after infection (hai). The TgPR genes showed higher expression in resistant plants compared to the susceptible ones, mainly for TgPR5 at 8 and 24 hai, while the expression was lower in the susceptible cupuassu plants. To our knowledge, this is the first in silico and in vitro reports of cupuassu PR protein. The data suggested that TgPRs could be involved in recognizing mechanisms of the plant's innate immune system through chitin receptors. Our results also suggest a putative role of chitinase/chitosanase for the TgPR5/osmotin.

Thématique : Maladies des plantes; Génétique et amélioration des plantes

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