BMC Plant Biol. 23 (1) 130 [2023-03-08; online 2023-03-08]
Early blight, caused by the necrotrophic fungal pathogen Alternaria solani, is an economically important disease affecting the tuber yield worldwide. The disease is mainly controlled by chemical plant protection agents. However, over-using these chemicals can lead to the evolution of resistant A. solani strains and is environmentally hazardous. Identifying genetic disease resistance factors is crucial for the sustainable management of early blight but little effort has been diverted in this direction. Therefore, we carried out transcriptome sequencing of the A. solani interaction with different potato cultivars with varying levels of early blight resistance to identify key host genes and pathways in a cultivar-specific manner. In this study, we have captured transcriptomes from three different potato cultivars with varying susceptibility to A. solani, namely Magnum Bonum, Désirée, and Kuras, at 18 and 36 h post-infection. We identified many differentially expressed genes (DEGs) between these cultivars, and the number of DEGs increased with susceptibility and infection time. There were 649 transcripts commonly expressed between the potato cultivars and time points, of which 627 and 22 were up- and down-regulated, respectively. Interestingly, overall the up-regulated DEGs were twice in number as compared to down-regulated ones in all the potato cultivars and time points, except Kuras at 36 h post-inoculation. In general, transcription factor families WRKY, ERF, bHLH, MYB, and C2H2 were highly enriched DEGs, of which a significant number were up-regulated. The majority of the key transcripts involved in the jasmonic acid and ethylene biosynthesis pathways were highly up-regulated. Many transcripts involved in the mevalonate (MVA) pathway, isoprenyl-PP, and terpene biosynthesis were also up-regulated across the potato cultivars and time points. Compared to Magnum Bonum and Désirée, multiple components of the photosynthesis machinery, starch biosynthesis and degradation pathway were down-regulated in the most susceptible potato cultivar, Kuras. Transcriptome sequencing identified many differentially expressed genes and pathways, thereby contributing to the improved understanding of the interaction between the potato host and A. solani. The transcription factors identified are attractive targets for genetic modification to improve potato resistance against early blight. The results provide important insights into the molecular events at the early stages of disease development, help to shorten the knowledge gap, and support potato breeding programs for improved early blight disease resistance.