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SUMMARY

Inducible plant defence responses in sugar beet (Beta vulgaris L.) leaves are repressed during the early phase of infection by the fungus Cercospora beticola. In this report, we show that the concentration of the plant hormone abscisic acid (ABA) increases in sugar beet leaves during C. beticola infection. After an initial burst of ABA induced by inoculation of the fungus, elevated ABA concentrations were detected during the fungal penetration and colonization phases 3–9 days after inoculation. Fifteen days after inoculation, with visible onset of the necrotic phase of infection, the strongly elevated ABA concentrations in infected leaves were at levels similar to drought-stressed plants. A synthetic promoter composed of four copies of the ABA-responsive element (ABRE) A2 and the coupling element CE3 of the ABA-inducible barley gene HVA1 was strongly induced by ABA and C. beticola infection in transgenic sugar beet leaves. Analysis of the spatial pattern of promoter activity revealed that the ABA-inducible promoter was locally activated at the fungal infection sites. Furthermore, expression of the basic leucine zipper transcription factor AREB1 was induced by drought stress and fungal infection in the sugar beet. Application of ABA reduced the promoter activity of the phenylalanine ammonia lyase (BvPAL) gene, and this effect was observed with the –34 to +248 BvPAL promoter region. This region is equivalent to the core promoter, which is necessary for the suppression of BvPAL expression by C. beticola, as recently shown. These data indicate that ABA accumulation and activation of the ABA-dependent signalling cascade are the primary cause of suppression of BvPAL expression during infection of sugar beet leaves.