Salicylic acid (SA) is a natural inducer of disease resistance in some dicotyledonous plants. Rice seedlings (Oryza sativa L.) had the highest levels of SA among all plants tested for SA content (between 0.01 and 37.19 (mu)g/g fresh weight). The second leaf of rice seedlings had slightly lower SA levels than any younger leaves. To investigate the role of SA in rice disease resistance, we examined the levels of SA in rice (cv M-201) after inoculation with bacterial and fungal pathogens. SA levels did not increase after inoculation with either the avirulent pathogen Pseudomonas syringae D20 or with the rice pathogens Magnaporthe grisea, the causal agent of rice blast, and Rhizoctonia solani, the causal agent of sheath blight. However, leaf SA levels in 28 rice varieties showed a correlation with generalized blast resistance, indicating that SA may play a role as a constitutive defense compound. Biosynthesis and metabolism of SA in rice was studied and compared to that of tobacco. Rice shoots converted (14C)cinnamic acid to SA and the lignin precursors p-coumaric and ferulic acids, whereas (14C)benzoic acid was readily converted to SA. The data suggest that in rice, as in tobacco, SA is synthesized from cinnamic acid via benzoic acid. In rice shoots, SA is largely present as a free acid; however, exogenously supplied SA was converted to (beta)-O-D-glucosylSA by an SA-inducible glucosyltransferase (SA-GTase). A 7-fold induction of SA-GTase activity was observed after 6 h of feeding 1 mM SA. Both rice roots and shoots showed similar patterns of SA-GTase induction by SA, with maximal induction after feeding with 1 mM SA.
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