Programmed cell death (PCD) is activated during the response of multicellular organisms to some invading pathogens. One of the key aspects of this process is the degradation of nuclear DNA which is thought to facilitate the recycling of DNA from dead cells. The PCD of tobacco plants (genotype NN) infected with tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) is accompanied by the induction of nuclease activities and the cleavage of nuclear DNA to fragments of about 50 kb. We examined the correlation between the increase in nuclease activities and the fragmentation of nuclear DNA during TMV- and bacteria-induced PCD in tobacco. We found that the increase in nuclease activities did not always correlate with fragmentation of nuclear DNA. Thus, in addition to pathogens that induce PCD, mechanical injury and infiltration of leaves with 1 M sucrose or bacteria that did not induce PCD also resulted in an increase in nuclease activities. Analysis of nuclease activities in total leaf extracts, nuclear extracts, and intercellular fluid (i.e., apoplast) revealed that at least four different nuclease activities are induced during PCD in tobacco; of these at least three appear to be secreted into the intercellular fluid. Although the latter were also induced in response to treatments that did not result in DNA fragmentation, they may function in the recycling of plant DNA during late stages of PCD when the integrity of the plasma membrane is compromised. This suggestion is supported by the finding that DNA degradation occurred late during TMV-induced PCD in tobacco. In addition, the finding of induced nuclease activities in the intercellular fluid raises the possibility that they may serve a protective function by degrading the DNA of invading pathogens.
Plant Molecular Biology – Springer Journals
Published: Sep 29, 2004
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