Open Access Research article

Trichoderma viride cellulase induces resistance to the antibiotic pore-forming peptide alamethicin associated with changes in the plasma membrane lipid composition of tobacco BY-2 cells

Mari Aidemark1, Henrik Tjellström23, Anna Stina Sandelius3, Henrik Stålbrand4, Erik Andreasson5, Allan G Rasmusson1 and Susanne Widell1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biology, Lund University, Sölvegatan 35, SE-223 62 LUND, Sweden

2 Plant Biology Department, Michigan State University, East Lansing, 48824, MI, USA

3 Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Göteborg University, P.O. Box 461, SE-405 30 Göteborg, Sweden

4 Department of Biochemistry, P.O. Box 124, SE-221 00 Lund, Sweden

5 Department of Plant Protection Biology, Swedish Agricultural University, P.O. Box 102, SE-230 53 Alnarp, Sweden

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BMC Plant Biology 2010, 10:274  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-10-274

Published: 14 December 2010



Alamethicin is a membrane-active peptide isolated from the beneficial root-colonising fungus Trichoderma viride. This peptide can insert into membranes to form voltage-dependent pores. We have previously shown that alamethicin efficiently permeabilises the plasma membrane, mitochondria and plastids of cultured plant cells. In the present investigation, tobacco cells (Nicotiana tabacum L. cv Bright Yellow-2) were pre-treated with elicitors of defence responses to study whether this would affect permeabilisation.


Oxygen consumption experiments showed that added cellulase, already upon a limited cell wall digestion, induced a cellular resistance to alamethicin permeabilisation. This effect could not be elicited by xylanase or bacterial elicitors such as flg22 or elf18. The induction of alamethicin resistance was independent of novel protein synthesis. Also, the permeabilisation was unaffected by the membrane-depolarising agent FCCP. As judged by lipid analyses, isolated plasma membranes from cellulase-pretreated tobacco cells contained less negatively charged phospholipids (PS and PI), yet higher ratios of membrane lipid fatty acid to sterol and to protein, as compared to control membranes.


We suggest that altered membrane lipid composition as induced by cellulase activity may render the cells resistant to alamethicin. This induced resistance could reflect a natural process where the plant cells alter their sensitivity to membrane pore-forming agents secreted by Trichoderma spp. to attack other microorganisms, and thus adding to the beneficial effect that Trichoderma has for plant root growth. Furthermore, our data extends previous reports on artificial membranes on the importance of lipid packing and charge for alamethicin permeabilisation to in vivo conditions.