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Nataliya Hrunyk, Roman Gout and Valentina Kovaleva


Damping-off disease in pine seedling, caused by fungi and oomycetes (Fusarium, Alternaria, Botrytis, Phytophthora) and other species, is one of the most dangerous diseases in conifer nurseries and greenhouses worldwide. Alternaria alternata is a necrotrophic pathogen, which causes early blight in higher plants and results in massive economic losses in agro-industry as well as in forestry. Pine seedlings that lack strong lignificated and suberized cell walls at early stages of their growth are vulnerable to damping-off disease. So, triggering the synthesis of antimicrobial compounds, such as phytoalexins, anticipins and pathogenesis-related (PR) proteins, is the main defense strategy to confine pathogens at early stages of pine ontogenesis. Defensins and lipid transfer proteins are members of two PR-protein families (PR-12 and PR-14 respectively) and possess antimicrobial activities in vitro through contact toxicity, and the involvement in defense signalling. In this work, we describe the changes in the expression levels of four defensin genes and lipid transfer protein in Scots pine seedlings infected with A. alternata. The expression levels of PsDef1 and PsDef2 increased at 48 h.p.i. (hours post inoculation). The levels of PsDef4 transcripts have increased after 6 and 24 hours. Notably, at 48 h.p.i., the level of PsDef4 transcripts was decreased by 1.2 times compared to control. The level of PsDef3 transcripts was reduced at all three time points. On the other hand, the level of PsLTP1 transcripts increased at 6 h and 48 h.p.i.; while at 24 h.p.i., it decreased by 20% when compared to the control sample. Our results suggest that defensins and lipid transfer protein are involved in the defense response of young Scots pine to necrotrophic pathogen. Thus, those genes can be used as the molecular markers in forestry selection and development of the ecologically friendly remedies for coniferous seedlings cultivation in greenhouses and nurseries.