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Effects of Verticillium dahlia on tomato root morphology considering plant growth response and defence.

The soilborne pathogen Verticillium dahliae invades its host via the root, and spreads systemically throughout the plant. Although a functional root system of appropriate size is essential for water and nutrient uptake, to date, effects of pathogens on root morphology have not been frequently investigated. Therefore, this study aims to improve knowledge of how V. dahliae infection impairs root morphological characteristics of tomato, considering plant growth and physiological responses, particularly those involved in defence in roots and leaves over a growing period of up to 28 days post-inoculation. Verticillium dahliae infection suppressed the growth of both shoot and root. Diseased plants developed a smaller leaf area, and exhibited a reduction in the rate of photosynthesis and stomatal conductance. An early response to pathogen invasion in the host root was the up-regulation of several defence-related genes, such as proteinase inhibitor II (Pin2), β-1,3-glucanase A (GluA) and two pathogenesis-related genes (PR-1a, PR-1b). However, this response did not prevent colonization of the roots by the pathogen. Although a high variability in pathogen density was found within the root system, a significant increase of both the specific root length and surface area was observed in response to pathogen invasion; these traits correlated with water use efficiency. Morphological changes of the root may represent an adaptive response evolved to sustain the supply of both water and nutrients in the presence of the pathogen.

Buhtz A.; Hohe A.; Schwarz, D.; Grosch R. 2017. Effects of <i>Verticillium dahlia</i> on tomato root morphology considering plant growth response and defence. Plant Pathology 66(4), 667-676.