Genetic resistance remains a key component in integrated pest management systems. The cosmopolitan root-knot nematode (RKN; Meloidogyne
spp.) proves a significant management challenge as virulence and pathogenicity vary among and within species. RKN greatly reduces commercial bell pepper yield, and breeding programs continuously develop cultivars to emerging nematode threats. However, there is a lack of knowledge concerning the nature and forms of nematode resistance. Defining how resistant and susceptible pepper cultivars mount defenses against RKN attacks can help inform breeding programs. Here, we characterized the transcriptional responses of the highly related resistant (Charleston Belle) and susceptible (Keystone Resistance Giant) pepper cultivars throughout early nematode infection stages. Comprehensive transcriptomic sequencing of resistant and susceptible cultivar roots with or without Meloidogyneincognita
infection over three-time points; covering early penetration (1-day), through feeding site maintenance (7-days post-inoculation), produced > 300 million high quality reads. Close examination of chromosome P9, on which nematode resistance hotspots are located, showed more differentially expressed genes were upregulated in resistant cultivar at day 1 when compared to the susceptible cultivar. Our comprehensive approach to transcriptomic profiling of pepper resistance revealed novel insights into how RKN causes disease and the plant responses mounted to counter nematode attack. This work broadens the definition of resistance from a single loci concept to a more complex array of interrelated pathways. Focus on these pathways in breeding programs may provide more sustainable and enduring forms of resistance.
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