Differences in ascorbate and glutathione levels as indicators of resistance and susceptibility in Eucalyptus trees infected with Phytophthora cinnamomi
In this study we investigated the role that ascorbate (AA) and glutathione (GSH) play in the plant pathogen interaction of susceptible Eucalyptus sieberi L. A. Johnson and resistant Eucalyptus sideroxylon Woolls with Phytophthora cinnamomi Rands root infection. In a glasshouse study, seedlings were grown in soil-free plant boxes to facilitate the inoculation of the root systems by a P. cinnamomi zoospore solution. Ascorbate and GSH concentrations were measured in infected roots and leaves, along with leaf gas exchange, chlorophyll fluorescence and carbohydrate concentrations over a time course up to 312 h (13 days) post-inoculation (pi). At the early stages of infection (from 24 h pi), significant decreases in AA and GSH concentrations were observed in the infected roots and leaves of the susceptible E. sieberi seedlings. At the later stage of infection (312 h pi), the earlier AA decreases in the leaves of infected plants had become significant increases. In contrast, late, significant AA increases in the absence of any GSH changes were observed in the infected roots of the resistant E. sideroxylon seedlings. In E. sideroxylon leaves, a significant GSH increase occurred at 24 h pi; however, by 312 h pi the earlier increase had become a significant decrease, while no changes occurred in AA. In E. sieberi, photosynthesis (A), stomatal conductance (gs) and PSII quantum efficiency (ΦPSII) were reduced by ∼60, 80 and 30%, respectively, in infected plants and remained significantly lower than uninfected controls for the duration of the experiment. Significant reductions in these parameters did not occur until later (120 h pi for gs and 312 h pi for A and ΦPSII), and to a lesser extent in the resistant species. Non-structural carbohydrate analysis of roots and leaves indicate that carbohydrate metabolism and resource flow between shoots and roots may have been altered at later infection stages. This study suggests that reduced antioxidant capacity, leaf physiological function and carbohydrate metabolism are associated with susceptibility in E. sieberi to P. cinnamomi infection, while AA increases and new root formation were associated with resistance in E. sideroxylon.