The pathogenic development of Sclerotinia sclerotiorum in soybean requires specific host NADPH oxidases

Ashish Ranjan, Dhileepkumar Jayaraman, Craig Grau, John H. Hill, Steven A. Whitham, Jean Michel Ané, Damon L. Smith, Mehdi Kabbage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The plant membrane-localized NADPH oxidases, also known as respiratory burst oxidase homologues (RBOHs), play crucial roles in various cellular activities, including plant disease responses, and are a major source of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Sclerotinia sclerotiorum is a cosmopolitan fungal pathogen that causes Sclerotinia stem rot (SSR) in soybean. Via a key virulence factor, oxalic acid, it induces programmed cell death (PCD) in the host plant, a process that is reliant on ROS generation. In this study, using protein sequence similarity searches, we identified 17 soybean RBOHs (GmRBOHs) and studied their contribution to SSR disease development, drought tolerance and nodulation. We clustered the soybean RBOH genes into six groups of orthologues based on phylogenetic analysis with their Arabidopsis counterparts. Transcript analysis of all 17 GmRBOHs revealed that, of the six identified groups, group VI (GmRBOH-VI) was specifically and drastically induced following S. sclerotiorum challenge. Virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS) of GmRBOH-VI using Bean pod mottle virus (BPMV) resulted in enhanced resistance to S. sclerotiorum and markedly reduced ROS levels during disease development. Coincidently, GmRBOH-VI-silenced plants were also found to be drought tolerant, but showed a reduced capacity to form nodules. Our results indicate that the pathogenic development of S. sclerotiorum in soybean requires the active participation of specific host RBOHs, to induce ROS and cell death, thus leading to the establishment of disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)700-714
Number of pages15
JournalMolecular Plant Pathology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • drought
  • NADPH oxidases
  • ROS
  • Sclerotinia sclerotiorum
  • Sclerotinia stem rot
  • soybean

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