Youwei Du #, Hongchen Jia , Zi Yang , Shuanghong Wang , Yuanyuan Liu , Huiya Ma , Xiaofei Liang , Bo Wang , Mingqi Zhu , Yanan Meng , Mark L Gleason , Tom Hsiang , Sadia Noorin , Rong Zhang *, Guangyu Sun* .Sufficient coumarin accumulation improves apple resistance to Cytospora mali under high potassium status.Plant Physiology. 2023.doi: 10.1093/plphys/kiad184.
Cytospora canker, caused by Cytospora mali, is the most destructive disease in production of apples (Malus domestica). Adding potassium (K) to apple trees can effectively control this disease. However, the underlying mechanisms of apple resistance to C. mali under high-K status remain unknown. Here, we found that high K (HK, 9.30 g/kg) apple tissues exhibited high disease resistance. The resistance was impeded when blocking K channels, leading to susceptibility even under HK conditions. We detected a suite of resistance events in HK apple tissues, including upregulation of resistance genes, callose deposition, and formation of ligno-suberized tissues. Further multi-omics revealed that the phenylpropanoid pathway was reprogrammed by increasing K content from low K (LK, 4.30 g/kg) status, leading to increases of 18 antifungal chemicals. Among them, the physiological concentration of coumarin (1,2-benzopyrone) became sufficient to inhibit C. mali growth in HK tissues, and exogenous application could improve the C. mali resistance of LK apple branches. Transgenic apple calli overexpressing beta-glucosidase 40 (MdBGLU40), which encodes enzyme for coumarin synthesis, contained higher levels of coumarin and exhibited high resistance to C. mali even under LK conditions. Conversely, suppression of MdBGLU40 through RNAi reduced coumarin content and resistance in HK apple calli, supporting the importance of coumarin accumulation in vivo for apple resistance. Moreover, we found that the upregulation of transcription factor MdMYB1r1 directly activated MdBGLU40, and the binding affinity of MdMYB1r1 to the MdBGLU40 promoter increased in HK apple tissue, leading to high levels of coumarin and resistance in HK apple. Overall, we found that accumulation of defensive metabolites strengthened resistance in apple when raising K from insufficient to optimal status, and these results highlight the optimization of K content in fertilization practices as a disease management strategy.