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Summary

Root-knot and cyst nematodes are plant parasites that induce large multinucleated feeding cells in the roots of their hosts. Cytological observations have shown that root-knot nematodes induce giant cells by cycles of mitosis without cytokinesis whereas cyst nematodes provoke cell wall degradation leading to the formation of a large syncytium. This study was intended to characterize and compare the ability of both types of nematodes to induce progression through the cell cycle. For this purpose, the expression, upon nematode infection, of two cell cycle markers was followed: a marker for division competence, the cyclin-dependent kinase cdc2a and a marker for the G2 phase, the mitotic cyclin cyc1At. For both types of nematodes, transcriptional activation of these markers was correlated with early phases of feeding cell development. Using molecular markers, it was thus possible to confirm and extend the observations of repeated mitosis in root-knot nematode-induced giant cells. Surprisingly, promoter activation of both cdc2a and cyc1At markers was also found upon cyst nematode infection, in feeding cells in which mitosis has not been clearly reported. Incorporation of tritiated thymidine in these syncytia confirms that they progress through the S phase of the cell cycle. One possibility is that cyst nematodes induce cycles of DNA endoreduplication shunting the M phase. Despite obvious differences in ontogeny, common molecular mechanisms, involving cycles of DNA endoreduplication and cdc2a and cyc1At expression, might thus be involved in the formation of a giant cell or a syncytium.