Growth of Arabidopsis seedlings on high fungal doses of Piriformospora indica has little effect on plant performance, stress, and defense gene expression in spite of elevated jasmonic acid ... | GMOs, NBT & Sustainable agriculture |



The endophytic fungus Piriformospora indica colonizes the roots of many plant species including Arabidopsis and promotes their performance, biomass, and seed production as well as resistance against biotic and abiotic stress. Imbalances in the symbiotic interaction such as uncontrolled fungal growth result in the loss of benefits for the plants and activation of defense responses against the microbe. We exposed Arabidopsis seedlings to a dense hyphal lawn of P. indica. The seedlings continue to grow, accumulate normal amounts of chlorophyll, and the photosynthetic parameters demonstrate that they perform well. In spite of high fungal doses around the roots, the fungal material inside the roots was not significantly higher when compared with roots that live in a beneficial symbiosis with P. indica. Fifteen defense- and stress-related genes including PR2, PR3, PAL2, and ERF1 are only moderately upregulated in the roots on the fungal lawn, and the seedlings did not accumulate H2O2/radical oxygen species. However, accumulation of anthocyanin in P. indica-exposed seedlings indicates stress symptoms. Furthermore, the jasmonic acid (JA) and jasmonic acid-isoleucine (JA-Ile) levels were increased in the roots, and consequently PDF1.2 and a newly characterized gene for a 2-oxoglurate and Fe2+-dependent oxygenase were upregulated more than 7-fold on the dense fungal lawn, in a JAR1- and EIN3-dependent manner. We conclude that growth of A. thaliana seedlings on high fungal doses of P. indica has little effect on the overall performance of the plants although elevated JA and JA-Ile levels in the roots induce a mild stress or defense response.