Plant-defense responses are triggered by perception of conserved microbe-associated molecular patterns (MAMPs), for example, flagellin or peptidoglycan. However, it remained unknown whether plants can detect conserved molecular patterns derived from plant-parasitic animals, including nematodes.
Authors in the journal nature Communications show that several genera of plant-parasitic nematodes produce small molecules called ascarosides, an evolutionarily conserved family of nematode pheromones.
Picomolar to micromolar concentrations of ascr#18, the major ascaroside in plant-parasitic nematodes, induce hallmark defense responses including the expression of genes associated with MAMP-triggered immunity, activation of mitogen-activated protein kinases, as well as salicylic acid- and jasmonic acid-mediated defense signalling pathways.
Ascr#18 perception increases resistance in Arabidopsis, tomato, potato and barley to viral, bacterial, oomycete, fungal and nematode infections. These results indicate that plants recognize ascarosides as a conserved molecular signature of nematodes.