Pectin integrity regulation in plant immunity: new perspective in plant protection
The project aims at providing new knowledge to improve plant resistance to fungal disease moving towards a sustainable agriculture. Botrytis cinerea, the causal agent of grey mold disease, is a broad-spectrum fungal necrotroph that causes serious pre- and post-harvest rot in more than 200 species worldwide. Pectin integrity alteration, pectin methylesterification status, pectin methylesterase (PME) activity and PME-derived damage-associated molecular pattern (DAMPs) such as oligogalacturonides (OGs) and methanol (MeOH) can impact on plant disease resistance. Currently the knowledge on molecular mechanisms underlying PME-mediated immunity is limited. A reverse genetic approach combined with biochemical studies and plant molecular biology will be utilized in Arabidopsis to identify the functional roles of pathogen-responsive PME isoforms induced in response to Botrytis cinerea. Efforts will be devoted to the identification of molecular factors triggering PME expression during infection. Dynamics of CW changes and the subcellular localization of PMEs and PME products will be achieved through advanced confocal microscopy. The release of OGs and MeOH will be investigated through Mass Spectrometry platform. The identification of new genetic determinants underlying pectin integrity maintenance will be useful for obtaining plants with improved resistance to pathogens.