Infection of potato (Solanum tuberosum) leaves by the late blight fungus Phytophthora infestans or treatment with fungal elicitor leads to a strong increase in chitinase activity. We isolated cDNAs encoding acidic (class II) chitinases (ChtA) from potato leaves and determined their structures and expression patterns in healthy and stressed plants. From the total number of cDNAs and the complexity of genomic DNA blots we conclude that acidic chitinase in potato is encoded by a gene family which is considerably smaller than that encoding basic (class I) chitinase (ChtB). The deduced amino acid sequences show 78 to 96% identity to class II chitinases from related plant species (tomato, tobacco) whereas the identity to basic chitinases of potato is in the range of 60%. RNA blot analysis revealed that both acidic and basic chitinases were strongly induced by infection or elicitor treatment and that the induction occurred both locally at the site of infection and systemically in upper uninfected leaves. In contrast, a differential response to other types of stress was observed. Acidic chitinase mRNA was strongly induced by salicylic acid, whereas basic chitinase mRNA was induced by ethylene or wounding. In healthy, untreated plants, acidic chitinase mRNA accumulated also in an organ-, cell-type- and development-specific manner as revealed by RNA blot analysis and in situ RNA hybridization. Relatively high transcript levels were observed in old leaves and young internodes as well as in vascular tissue and cells constituting the stomatal complex in leaves and petioles. Lower, but appreciable mRNA levels were also detectable in roots and various flower organs, particularly in sepals and stamens. The possible implications of these findings in pathogen defense, development and growth processes are discussed.
Plant Molecular Biology – Springer Journals
Published: Sep 30, 2004
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