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Reverse-genetic approach to verify physiological roles of rice phytoalexins: characterization of a knockdown mutant of OsCPS4 phytoalexin biosynthetic gene in rice



A variety of labdane-related diterpenoids, including phytocassanes, oryzalexins and momilactones, were identified as phytoalexins in rice (Oryza sativa L.). Momilactone B was also isolated as an allelochemical exuded from rice roots. The biosynthetic genes of these phytoalexins have been identified, including six labdane-related diterpene cyclase genes such as OsCPS2, OsCPS4, OsKSL4, OsKSL7, OsKSL8 and OsKSL10. Here we identified an OsCPS4 knockdown mutant, cps4-tos, by screening Tos17 mutant lines using polymerase chain reaction. OsCPS4 encodes a syn-copalyl diphosphate synthase responsible for momilactones and oryzalexin S biosynthesis. Because Tos17 was inserted into the third intron of OsCPS4, the mature OsCPS4 mRNA was detected in the cps4-tos mutant as well as the wild type. Nevertheless, mature OsCPS4 transcript levels in the cps4-tos mutant were about one sixth those in the wild type. The cps4-tos mutant was more susceptible to rice blast fungus than the wild type, possibly due to lower levels of momilactones and oryzalexin S in the mutant. Moreover, co-cultivation experiments suggested that the allelopathic effect of cps4-tos against some kinds of lowland weeds was significantly lower than that of the wild type, probably because of lower momilactone content exuded from cps4-tos roots. A reverse-genetic strategy using the cps4-tos mutant showed the possible roles of momilactones not only as phytoalexins but also as allelopathic substances.