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Open Access Research article

Interactions between cauliflower and Rhizoctonia anastomosis groups with different levels of aggressiveness

Joke Pannecoucque and Monica Höfte*

Author Affiliations

Laboratory of Phytopathology, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Ghent University, Coupure Links, 653, B-9000 Gent, Belgium

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BMC Plant Biology 2009, 9:95  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-9-95

Published: 21 July 2009

Abstract

Background

The soil borne fungus Rhizoctonia is one of the most important plant pathogenic fungi, with a wide host range and worldwide distribution. In cauliflower (Brassica oleracea var. botrytis), several anastomosis groups (AGs) including both multinucleate R. solani and binucleate Rhizoctonia species have been identified showing different levels of aggressiveness. The infection and colonization process of Rhizoctonia during pathogenic interactions is well described. In contrast, insights into processes during interactions with weak aggressive or non-pathogenic isolates are limited. In this study the interaction of cauliflower with seven R. solani AGs and one binucleate Rhizoctonia AG differing in aggressiveness, was compared. Using microscopic and histopathological techniques, the early steps of the infection process, the colonization process and several host responses were studied.

Results

For aggressive Rhizoctonia AGs (R. solani AG 1-1B, AG 1-1C, AG 2-1, AG 2-2 IIIb and AG 4 HGII), a higher developmental rate was detected for several steps of the infection process, including directed growth along anticlinal cell walls and formation of T-shaped branches, infection cushion formation and stomatal penetration. Weak or non-aggressive AGs (R. solani AG 5, AG 3 and binucleate Rhizoctonia AG K) required more time, notwithstanding all AGs were able to penetrate cauliflower hypocotyls. Histopathological observations indicated that Rhizoctonia AGs provoked differential host responses and pectin degradation. We demonstrated the pronounced deposition of phenolic compounds and callose against weak and non-aggressive AGs which resulted in a delay or complete block of the host colonization. Degradation of pectic compounds was observed for all pathogenic AGs, except for AG 2-2 IIIb. Ranking the AGs based on infection rate, level of induced host responses and pectin degradation revealed a strong correlation with the disease severity caused by the AGs.

Conclusion

The differences in aggressiveness towards cauliflower observed among Rhizoctonia AGs correlated with the infection rate, induction of host defence responses and pectin breakdown. All Rhizoctonia AGs studied penetrated the plant tissue, indicating all constitutive barriers of cauliflower were defeated and differences in aggressiveness were caused by inducible defence responses, including cell wall fortifications with phenolic compounds and callose.