Cyst nematodes are obligate, biotrophic parasites of many important agricultural crops that have the fascinating ability to reprogram plant cells and form a unique feeding structure called syncytium. The syncytium functions as a metabolic sink from which feeding nematodes acquire their nutrients for several weeks. Establishment of a successful cyst nematode-plant interaction strongly depends on plant hormone homeostasis. We have recently discovered that strigolactones play distinct roles in the interaction of beet cyst nematode (Heterodera schachtii) with Arabidopsis. Strigolactone signalling mutant max2 negatively affects nematode attraction to the roots, whereas both max2 and the strigolactone biosynthesis mutant max4 enhance syncytium development. Moreover, the exogenous application of the synthetic strigolactone GR24 expands the zone above the root tip where H. schachtii invades the host. We want to dissect the role of strigolactone pathway in the overall susceptibility of Arabidopsis to H. schachtii. Furthermore, we aim at understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying the effect of strigolactone signalling and responses in nematode attraction, host invasion, and syncytium development.
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