PLANT HORMONE PATHWAYS PLAY A CRUCIAL ROLE IN SOLANUM SPP. INTERACTIONS WITH THE SOIL ENVIRONMENT

2019-01-17T13:56:53Z (GMT) by Elizabeth A. French
Plants regulate responses to their environment through complex hormone signaling; these hormones can be categorized broadly into two categories: growth and defense, though many have roles in both. Much remains to be understood about the complexity of hormone signaling in relation to environmental responses, especially species- and genotype-specific differences. Unraveling this complexity of hormone signaling will lead to the development of resilient crops that are able to respond appropriately to their environment. In this dissertation, I hypothesize novel roles for growth and defense hormones in <i>Solanum </i>spp. responses to 1) biochar, a black carbon soil amendment (Chapter 2), 2) infection with<i> Ralstonia solanacearum</i>, an economically important soilborne pathogen causing bacterial wilt (Chapter 3), and 3) endophytic colonization by the soil bacterial community (Chapter 4). In Chapter 2, I showed that biochar upregulates GA signaling and affects GA-related traits in a species- and cultivar-specific manner. Biochar amendment also downregulates defense signaling. In Chapter 3, I demonstrated a novel role for auxin in resistance against <i>R. solanacearum, </i>including differential expression of auxin signaling genes in resistant genotype H7996 compared to susceptible WV in response to <i>R. solanacearum</i> infection. In addition, I observed stronger and faster upregulation of defense hormone marker genes for SA and ET in H7996 compared to WV. In Chapter 4, I showed that SA and ET are required for normal tomato root microbial community assembly, affecting the colonization of a few key taxa in order to promote alpha diversity. H7996 and WV root communities differ in alpha diversity, and a panel of H7996 x WV RILs showed quantitative variation in alpha diversity that correlated negatively with the abundance of these key taxa. In conclusion, I elucidated novel roles for hormones in responses to the soil environment, pathogen infection, and root community colonization. These findings are important for developing resilient, sustainable crops.