PloS one

Oxalic acid has an additional, detoxifying function in Sclerotinia sclerotiorum pathogenesis.

PMID 23951305


The mechanism of the diseases caused by the necrotroph plant pathogen Sclerotinia sclerotiorum is not well understood. To investigate the role of oxalic acid during infection high resolution, light-, scanning-, transmission electron microscopy and various histochemical staining methods were used. Our inoculation method allowed us to follow degradation of host plant tissue around single hyphae and to observe the reaction of host cells in direct contact with single invading hyphae. After penetration the outer epidermal cell wall matrix appeared degraded around subcuticular hyphae (12-24 hpi). Calcium oxalate crystals were detected in advanced (36-48 hpi) and late (72 hpi) infection stages, but not in early stages. In early infection stages, surprisingly, no toxic effect of oxalic acid eventually secreted by S. sclerotiorum was observed. As oxalic acid is a common metabolite in plants, we propose that attacked host cells are able to metabolize oxalic acid in the early infection stage and translocate it to their vacuoles where it is stored as calcium oxalate. The effects, observed on healthy tissue upon external application of oxalic acid to non-infected, living tissue and cell wall degradation of dead host cells starting at the inner side of the walls support this idea. The results indicate that oxalic acid concentrations in the early stage of infection stay below the toxic level. In plant and fungi oxalic acid/calcium oxalate plays an important role in calcium regulation. Oxalic acid likely could quench calcium ions released during cell wall breakdown to protect growing hyphae from toxic calcium concentrations in the infection area. As calcium antimonate-precipitates were found in vesicles of young hyphae, we propose that calcium is translocated to the older parts of hyphae and detoxified by building non-toxic, stable oxalate crystals. We propose an infection model where oxalic acid plays a detoxifying role in late infection stages.

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Calcium oxalate, ≥99.9% trace metals basis