Nat Commun 13 (1) 2976 [2022-05-27; online 2022-05-27]
Parasitic plants are globally prevalent pathogens that withdraw nutrients from their host plants using an organ known as the haustorium. The external environment including nutrient availability affects the extent of parasitism and to understand this phenomenon, we investigated the role of nutrients and found that nitrogen is sufficient to repress haustoria formation in the root parasite Phtheirospermum japonicum. Nitrogen increases levels of abscisic acid (ABA) in P. japonicum and prevents the activation of hundreds of genes including cell cycle and xylem development genes. Blocking ABA signaling overcomes nitrogen's inhibitory effects indicating that nitrogen represses haustoria formation by increasing ABA. The effect of nitrogen appears more widespread since nitrogen also inhibits haustoria in the obligate root parasite Striga hermonthica. Together, our data show that nitrogen acts as a haustoria repressing factor and suggests a mechanism whereby parasitic plants use nitrogen availability in the external environment to regulate the extent of parasitism.