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SUMMARY

Emerging evidence suggests that plant cell-wall-modifying enzymes induced by root-parasitic nematodes play important roles in feeding cell formation. We previously identified a tobacco endo-β-1,4-glucanase (cellulase) gene, NtCel7, that was strongly induced in both root-knot and cyst nematode feeding cells. To characterize further the developmental and nematode-responsive regulation of NtCel7, we isolated the NtCel7 promoter and analysed its expression over a time course of nematode infection and in response to auxin, gibberellin, ethylene and sucrose in soybean and tomato hairy roots and in Arabidopsis containing the NtCel7 promoter fused to the β-glucuronidase (GUS) reporter gene. Histochemical analyses of transgenic plant materials revealed that the NtCel7 promoter exhibited a unique organ-specific expression pattern during plant development suggestive of important roles for NtCel7 in both vegetative and reproductive growth. In all plant species tested, strong GUS expression was observed in root tips and lateral root primordia of uninfected roots with weaker expression in the root vasculature. Further analyses of transgenic Arabidopsis plants revealed expression in shoot and root meristems and the vasculature of most organs during plant development. We also determined that the NtCel7 promoter was induced by auxin, but not gibberellin, ethylene or sucrose. Moreover, strong GUS activity was observed in both cyst and root-knot nematode-induced feeding sites in transgenic roots of soybean, tomato and Arabidopsis. The conserved developmental and nematode-responsive expression of the NtCel7 promoter in heterologous plants indicates that motifs of this regulatory element play a fundamental role in regulating NtCel7 gene expression within nematode feeding sites and that this regulation may be mediated by auxin.