Infection of corn ears by Fusarium spp. induces the emission of volatile sesquiterpenes

  • Becker E
  • Herrfurth C
  • Irmisch S
 et al. 
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Infection of corn (Zea mays L.) ears with fungal pathogens of the Fusarium genus might result in yield losses and in the accumulation of mycotoxins. The aim of this study was to investigate whether volatile profiles could be used to identify Fusarium-infected corn ears. The volatiles released by corn ears infected by Fusarium graminearum, Fusarium verticillioides, and Fusarium subglutinans were studied. Volatile emission was recorded at 24 days postinoculation (dpi) and in a time series (from 4 to 24 dpi). Twenty-two volatiles were differentially emitted from Fusarium-infected versus healthy corn ears. These included C6-C8 compounds and sesquiterpenoids. All volatiles indicative of Fusarium infection were detectable as early as 4-8 dpi and continued to be produced to the final sampling time (early milk maturity stage). The induced emission of $β$-macrocarpene and $β$-bisabolene correlated with an increased transcript accumulation of corn terpene synthase 6/11 (tps6/11). Additionally, the modification of volatile profiles after Fusarium infection was accompanied by the induction of plant defense compounds such as zealexins and oxylipins. Together, these results reveal a broad metabolic response of the plant to pathogen attack. Volatile biomarkers of Fusarium infection are promising indicators for the early detection of fungal infection before disease symptoms become visible.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Fusarium spp.
  • corn (Zea mays L.)
  • oxylipins
  • volatile organic compounds
  • zealexins

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  • Eva Maria Becker

  • Cornelia Herrfurth

  • Sandra Irmisch

  • Tobias G. Köllner

  • Ivo Feussner

  • Petr Karlovsky

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