Elicitins are low molecular weight proteins secreted by all Phytophthora species analyzed so far. Application of the purified proteins to tobacco Nicotiana tabacum leads to the induction of resistance to subsequent inoculations with the black shank-causing agent, Phytophthora parasitica var nicotianae. In this paper, we describe the systemic characteristics of elicitin-induced acquired resistance in tobacco. Elicitin application is followed by the rapid translocation of the protein in the plant. The basic elicitin, cryptogein, induces necrosis formation in the leaves, which results from accumulation of the protein in these organs. Necrosis does not seem to be essential for the establishment of systemic acquired resistance (SAR), since resistance induced by the acidic elicitin, capsicein, is not accompanied by the development of visible symptoms on the leaves. Both elicitins trigger the coordinate accumulation of transcripts from nine genes, previously described to be expressed during establishment of SAR. Additionally, elicitin treatment leads to the activation of the multiple response gene str 246. In leaves, transcript accumulation was found to be higher in all cases in response to cryptogein compared to capsicein treatment. These results, along with northern hybridization analysis following infiltration of leaves with cryptogein, indicate that SAR genes appear to be expressed locally, corresponding to necrosis formation as well as systemically during induction of resistance. To our knowledge, elicitins are the only well-characterized, pathogen-derived molecules that trigger SAR in a plant.
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