Impairment of Tomato WAT1 Enhances Resistance to Vascular Wilt Fungi Despite Severe Growth Defects

Katharina Hanika, Danny Schipper, Shravya Chinnappa, Marian Oortwijn, Henk J. Schouten, Bart P.H.J. Thomma, Yuling Bai*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Verticillium dahliae is a particularly notorious vascular wilt pathogen of tomato and poses a reoccurring challenge to crop protection as limited qualitative resistance is available. Therefore, alternative approaches for crop protection are pursued. One such strategy is the impairment of disease susceptibility (S) genes, which are plant genes targeted by pathogens to promote disease development. In Arabidopsis and cotton, the Walls Are Thin 1 (WAT1) gene has shown to be a S gene for V. dahliae. In this study, we identified the tomato WAT1 homolog Solyc04g080940 (SlWAT1). Transient and stable silencing of SlWAT1, based on virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS) and RNAi, respectively, did not consistently lead to reduced V. dahliae susceptibility in tomato. However, CRISPR-Cas9 tomato mutant lines carrying targeted deletions in SlWAT1 showed significantly enhanced resistance to V. dahliae, and furthermore also to Verticillium albo-atrum and Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. lycopersici (Fol). Thus, disabling the tomato WAT1 gene resulted in broad-spectrum resistance to various vascular pathogens in tomato. Unfortunately these tomato CRISPR mutant lines suffered from severe growth defects. In order to overcome the pleiotropic effect caused by the impairment of the tomato WAT1 gene, future efforts should be devoted to identifying tomato SlWAT1 mutant alleles that do not negatively impact tomato growth and development.

Original languageEnglish
Article number721674
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
Volume12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 13 Sep 2021

Keywords

  • Fusarium
  • pleiotropic effect
  • resistance breeding
  • susceptibility gene
  • Verticillium

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