Arabidopsis thionin-like genes are involved in resistance against the beet-cyst nematode (Heterodera schachtii).


Division of Plant Protection, Department of Crop Sciences, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria. Electronic address: [Email]


Plants express various antimicrobial peptides including thionins to protect themselves against pathogens. It was recently found that, in addition to four thionin genes, Arabidopsis contains 67 thionin-like (ThiL) genes including six pseudogenes. It is known that thionins have antimicrobial activity and are part of the plant defense system, however, nothing is known about ThiL genes. In this study, we present a bioinformatic analysis of the (ThiL) gene family in Arabidopsis. We identified 15 different motifs which positioned the ThiL peptides in four groups. A comparison of amino acid sequences showed that the ThiL peptides are actually more similar to the acidic domain of thionin proproteins than to the thionin domain. We selected 10 ThiL genes to study the expression and possible function in the Arabidopsis plant. RT-PCR and promoter:GUS fusions showed that most genes were expressed at a very low level but in several organs and at different developmental stages. Some genes were also expressed in syncytia induced by the beet cyst nematode Heterodera schachti in roots while others were downregulated in syncytia. Some overexpression lines supported lower number of nematodes that developed on the roots after inoculation. Two of the genes resulted in a strong hypersensitive response when infiltrated into leaves of Nicotiana benthamiana. These results indicate that ThiL genes might be involved in the response to biotic stress. ThiL genes have been expanded in the Brassicales and specifically the Brassicaceae. The most extreme example is the CRP2460 subfamily that contains 28 very closely related genes from Arabidopsis which are mostly the result of tandem duplications.


Antimicrobial peptide,Arabidopsis,Heterodera schachtii,Plant defense,Thionin,