Plant-parasitic nematodes constitute a major threat to global food production. Despite causing considerable damage to host tissue during parasitism, little is known on the role of plant basal immunity in resistance to nematodes. We have recently discovered that suppression of basal immunity to nematodes involves a specific class of surface-localized receptors i.e. proline-rich extensin-like receptor kinases (PERKs). However, the role of PERKs as mediators of damage-triggered basal immunity is not well understood. PERKs are differentially regulated upon infections with cyst and root-knot nematodes. Arabidopsis perk-mutants show increased susceptibility to both cyst and root-knot nematodes. By contrast overexpression of AtPERK-A results in enhanced resistance to cyst nematodes. Furthermore, Arabidopsis lines heterologously overexpressing AtPERK-A homologs also show enhanced resistance to cyst nematode infections. AtPERK-A is strongly induced in nematode feeding sites and neighbouring cells. The basal immune response mediated by PERK-A during nematode infection involves binding of the extracellular domain to polygalacturonic acid and the downstream regulation of innate immune suppressors. We, therefore, conclude that PERKs function as damage-triggered immune receptors during nematode infections and as such can be exploited as a novel source of nematode resistance.
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