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Pathogen attack

Early detection of Botrytis cinerea infection

When plants mature and die, the senescenting cells serve as a food base for many microorganisms. Botrytis cinerea is such an organism. This fungus colonizes very quickly wounded or dying stems, leaves, flowers, and fruits in order to get their nutrients and then spread and invade the healthy living tissues.

The ability of the fungus to infect living cells and its ability to counteract the defense mechanisms activated by the infected plants are important topics in B. cinerea research. However, there are still severe many questions without regarding the plant fungus interaction. In this direction, monitoring the VOCs released during this interaction in relation to the disease development is of special importance.

The trace gas detectors from our Facility enable researchers to go into the heart of the fungal host communication and to correlate the new achieved inputs with their molecular data. Ethylene has a special place because its role during infection is not yet elucidated, but also other VOCs can be on-line monitored in both in vitro and in vivo conditions (ref.). There is evidence that some of these compounds can be used as sensitive markers for early infection and/or might play an important role in plant defense process.

The losses imposed by this pathogen requires the intense use of fungicides worth about 50-100 million Euro per year in Europe. Research has been carry out to investigate the possibility of using natural antifungal compounds (e.g. resveratrol) to improve the shelf-life of fruits and to preserve their natural post-harvest quality.

Nitric oxide detection during Pseudomonas syringae infection

Plant recognition of pathogen infection leads to so called hypersensitive response (HR) indicated by a fast, localized cell death at the site of infection. Upon pathogen invasion an oxidative burst can be observed in plant, however reactive oxygen species (ROS) alone cannot stop the pathogen invasion. A synergy mechanism has been proposed between ROS and nitric oxide (NO) during the HR response in plants.

Using a CO laser-based detector, the first in planta and direct measurements of NO emission from plants undergoing various responses to P. syringae challenge has been obtain.


Lesion formation in tobacco leaf infected by virulent (left) and avirulent (right) P. syringae at 24 h and 96 h after infection, respectively. A suicidal strategy is applied by plant during the avirulent bacteria infection; plant localized fast the lesion due to the HR mechanism.

Botrytis cinerea infection
  Botrytis cinerea infection