Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

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.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

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.


  1. 1.

    European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization. Meloidogyne chitwoodi and Meloidogyne fallax. EPPO Bull. 39, 5–17 (2009).

  2. 2.

    Santo, G. S., O’Bannon, J. H., Finley, A. M. & Golden, A. M. Occurrence and host range of a new root-knot nematode (Meoidogyne chitwoodi) in the Pacific Northwest. Plant Dis. 64, 951–952 (1980).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Mojtahedi, H., Brown, C. R., Riga, E. & Zhang, L. H. A new pathotype of Meloidogyne chitwoodi race 1 from Washington state. Plant Dis. 91, 1051 (2007).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Quintana-Rodriguez, E., Duran-Flores, D., Heil, M. & Camacho-Coronel, X. Damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs) as future plant vaccines that protect crops from pests. Sci. Hort. 237, 207–220 (2018).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Huffaker, A., Dafoe, N. J. & Schmelz, E. A. ZmPep1, an ortholog of Arabidopsis elicitor peptide 1, regulates maize innate immunity and enhances disease resistance. Plant Physiol. 155, 1325–1338 (2011).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Huffaker, A., Pearce, G. & Ryan, C. A. An endogenous peptide signal in Arabidopsis activates components of the innate immune response. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 103, 10098–10103 (2006).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Huffaker, A. et al. Plant elicitor peptides are conserved signals regulating direct and indirect antiherbivore defense. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 110, 5707–5712 (2013).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Liu, Z. et al. BIK1 interacts with PEPRs to mediate ethylene-induced immunity. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 110, 6205–6210 (2013).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Lori, M. et al. Evolutionary divergence of the plant elicitor peptides (Peps) and their receptors: interfamily incompatibility of perception but compatibility of downstream signalling. J. Exp. Bot. 66, 5315–5325 (2015).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Tintor, N. et al. Layered pattern receptor signaling via ethylene and endogenous elicitor peptides during Arabidopsis immunity tobacterial infection. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 110, 6211–6216 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Huffaker, A. & Ryan, C. A. Endogenous peptide defense signals in Arabidopsis differentially amplify signaling for the innate immune response. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 104, 10732–10736 (2007).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Lee, M. W. et al. Plant elicitor peptides promote plant defences against nematodes in soybean. Mol. Plant Pathol. 19, 858–869 (2018).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Warnock, N. D. et al. Nematode neuropeptides as transgenic nematicides. PLoS Pathol. 13, e1006237 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Karasov, T. L., Chae, E., Herman, J. J. & Bergelson, J. Mechanisms to mitigate the trade-off between growth and defense. Plant Cell 29, 666 (2017).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Holmes, D. R., Grubb, L. E. & Monaghan, J. The jasmonate receptor COI1 is required for AtPep1-induced immune responses in Arabidopsis thaliana. BMC Res. Notes 11, 555 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Wiesel, L. et al. A transcriptional reference map of defence hormone responses in potato. Sci. Rep. 5, 15229 (2015).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Poncini, L. et al. In roots of Arabidopsis thaliana, the damage-associated molecular pattern AtPep1 is a stronger elicitor of immune signalling than flg22 or the chitin heptamer. PLoS ONE 2017, e0185808 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Halim, V. A. et al. PAMP-induced defense responses in potato require both salicylic acid and jasmonic acid. Plant J. 57, 230–242 (2009).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Bartels, S. & Boller, T. Quo vadis, Pep? Plant elicitor peptides at the crossroads of immunity, stress, and development. J. Exp. Bot. 66, 5183–5193 (2015).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Livak, K. J. & Schmittgen, T. D. Analysis of relative gene expression data using real-time quantitative PCR and the 2−ΔΔCT method. Methods 25, 402–408 (2001).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


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.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

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

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Methods and Figs. 1–10.

Reporting Summary

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.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

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).

Download citation

Further reading


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing