Plant lipoxygenases (LOXs) are key enzymes involved in the generation of fatty acid derivatives, called oxylipins. In tobacco, LOX gene expression and activity are very low in healthy tissues and are highly enhanced in response to infection by Phytophthora parasitica nicotianae and to elicitor treatment. We previously showed, using antisense-LOX1 plants, that expression of the tobacco LOX1 gene is required for the race-cultivar specific resistance of tobacco to Phytophthora parasitica nicotianae (Rance et al. 1998). In order to investigate the effect of over-expressing a LOX gene on plant resistance, we transformed tobacco plants with the LOX1 coding sequence fused to the CaMV 35S promoter. Four transgenic lines with enhanced levels of LOX protein and specific activity over control plants were selected for further analysis. These plants were macroscopically indistinguishable from WT plants. Upon stem inoculation, the sense-LOX1 plants displayed a significantly decreased susceptibility to virulent races of Phytophthora parasitica nicotianae, stem lesions being 2- to 3-fold shorter in the transgenic lines than in WT plants. Using a root inoculation assay, the survival rate of sense-LOX1 seedlings was increased about 4-fold compared to their WT counterparts, with 60 to 80% of transgenic plants vs 15 to 20% of WT controls remaining healthy following inoculation with Phytophthora parasitica nicotianae. This is the first demonstration that the over-expression of a LOX gene is sufficient to reduce the susceptibility of a host plant to an oomycete pathogen.
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