The ability to induce defense systemically after a local infection allows plants to control disease spread to additional organs and ward off new infections. Dehydroabietinal, an abietane diterpenoid that is produced by a variety of plants, is a potent activator of systemic disease resistance, which is an inducible defense mechanism activated in the foliage in response to a local infection. The goal of this project is to characterize the involvement of dehydroabietinal as a long-distance signaling molecule in plant defense. A combination of genetic, biochemical, and molecular approaches will be utilized to accomplish this goal. The proposed activity will enhance our understanding of long-distance communication in plant defense and provide important insights into the function of abietane diterpenoids in plants.
Broader Impacts: This project will support the research and training of three graduate and two undergraduate students, and a postdoctoral fellow. They will receive training in plant biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics, organic chemistry, and mass spectrometry. In addition, through the instructional activities of the PI and Co-PIs, this project will bring current knowledge of plant signaling, secondary metabolism, and stress response, in addition to organic synthesis and mass-spectrometry techniques, into the classroom. The project will also provide opportunities to train high school students and future science teachers, and broaden the participation of underrepresented groups in research through several programs that are in place at the University of North Texas. This project will potentially benefit society at large by identifying steps in plant metabolism/signaling that mediate defense against pathogens. In the future these steps could be targeted for augmenting disease resistance in plants and thus enhance the quality and productivity of plants, and by way of limiting the need for toxic chemicals to protect plants, also benefit the environment and public health.