Enhancing potato resistance against root-knot nematodes using a plant-defence elicitor delivered by bacteria


The root-knot nematode Meloidogyne chitwoodi is a pest that affects potato production in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Here, to develop new strategies against M. chitwoodi infection of potato, we engineered Bacillus subtilis to secrete the plant-defence elicitor peptide StPep1. Pre-treatment of potato roots with the bacteria secreting StPep1 substantially reduced root galling, indicating that a bacterial secretion of a plant elicitor is an effective strategy for plant protection.

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Fig. 1: StPep1 pre-treatment of potato roots reduces M. chitwoodi galling and number of egg masses with no adverse effects on plant biomass.
Fig. 2: B. subtilis secreting StPep1 reduces M. chitwoodi infections on potato roots.
Fig. 3: Overview of plant treatment with B. subtilis secreting the immunostimulant StPep1.

Data availability

The datasets generated in the study are either included in this publication or available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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We acknowledge support by Washington State University and by the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Hatch umbrella project no. 1015621. We thank S. Rosahl for the StCOI1‐RNAi lines; R. Navarre for the NahG potato plants; C. Brown for the M. chitwoodi Roza pathotype; C. Xia and Q. Sun for help with the RNA-seq analyses; L. Thomashow and M. Yang for help with B. subtilis extraction and enumeration; S. Izaguirre and M. De Leon for their help with growing potato plants and for their assistance in the laboratory; and Z. Dubois for illustration services.

Author information




L.Z. designed and performed experiments. L.Z. and C.G. analysed data and wrote the paper.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Cynthia Gleason.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Peer review information Nature Plants thanks Shahid Siddique and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Methods and Figs. 1–10.

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Supplementary Tables

Supplementary Table 1: list of differentially regulated genes identified in the RNA-seq analysis in this study (6 h/0 h). Supplementary Table 2: list of primers used in this study. Supplementary Table 3: statistics and reproducibility—exact P values for Figs. 1 and 2, and Supplementary Figs. 1, 2, 5 and 8–10.

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Zhang, L., Gleason, C. Enhancing potato resistance against root-knot nematodes using a plant-defence elicitor delivered by bacteria. Nat. Plants 6, 625–629 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41477-020-0689-0

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