Pathogen–host interaction is a complicated process; pathogens mainly infect host plants to acquire nutrients, especially sugars. Rhizoctonia solani, the causative agent of sheath blight disease, is a major pathogen of rice. However, it is not known how this pathogen obtains sugar from rice plants. In this study, we found that the rice sugar transporter OsSWEET11 is involved in the pathogenesis of sheath blight disease. Quantitative real‐time polymerase chain reaction (qRT‐PCR) and β‐d‐glucuronidase expression analyses showed that R. solani infection significantly enhanced OsSWEET11 expression in leaves amongst the clade III SWEET members. The analyses of transgenic plants revealed that Ossweet11 mutants were less susceptible, whereas plants overexpressing OsSWEET11 were more susceptible, to sheath blight compared with wild‐type controls, but the yield of OsSWEET11 mutants and overexpressors was reduced. SWEETs become active on oligomerization. Split‐ubiquitin yeast two‐hybrid, bimolecular fluorescence complementation and co‐immunoprecipitation assays showed that mutated OsSWEET11 interacted with normal OsSWEET11. In addition, expression of conserved residue mutated AtSWEET1 inhibited normal AtSWEET1 activity. To analyse whether inhibition of OsSWEET11 function in mesophyll cells is related to defence against this disease, mutated OsSWEET11 was expressed under the control of the Rubisco promoter, which is specific for green tissues. The resistance of transgenic plants to sheath blight disease, but not other disease, was improved, whereas yield production was not obviously affected. Overall, these results suggest that R. solani might acquire sugar from rice leaves by the activation of OsSWEET11 expression. The plants can be protected from infection by manipulation of the expression of OsSWEET11 without affecting the crop yield.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.