Effect of chitinase antisense RNA expression on disease susceptibility of Arabidopsis plants

Deborah A. Samac, Dilip M. Shah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Chitinases accumulate in higher plants upon pathogen attack are capable of hydrolyzing chitin-containing fungal cell walls and are thus implicated as part of the plant defense response to fungal pathogens. To evaluate the relative role of the predominate chitinase (class I, basic enzyme) of Arabidopsis thaliana in disease resistance, transgenic Arabidopsis plants were generated that expressed antisense RNA to the class I chitinase. Young plants or young leaves of some plants expressing antisense RNA had <10% of the chitinase levels of control plants. In the oldest leaves of these antisense plants, chitinase levels rose to 37-90% of the chitinase levels relative to vector control plants, most likely because of accumulation and storage of the enzyme in vacuoles. The rate of infection by the fungal pathogen Botrytis cinerea was measured in detached leaves containing 7-15% of the chitinase levels of control plants prior to inoculation. Antisense RNA was not effective in suppressing induced chitinase expression upon infection as chitinase levels increased in antisense leaves to 47% of levels in control leaves within 24 hours after inoculation. Leaves from antisense plants became diseased at a slightly faster rate than leaves from control plants, but differences were not significant due to high variability. Although the tendency to increased susceptibility in antisense plants suggests that chitinases may slow the growth of invading fungal pathogens, the overall contribution of chitinase to the inducible defense reponses in Arabidopsis remains unclear.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)587-596
Number of pages10
JournalPlant molecular biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1994
Externally publishedYes


  • Antisense RNA
  • Arabidopsis thaliana
  • Botrytis cinerea
  • disease resistance
  • pathogenicity


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