Pine wilt disease is of major concern as it has destroyed pine forests in East Asia and Europe. Several studies have suggested that invasion by the pinewood nematode (PWN) Bursaphelenchus xylophilus, which causes this disease, evokes an excessive defence response in pine trees, resulting in tree death. However, few studies have quantitatively evaluated the correlation between PWN distribution and tree defence responses. Therefore, the present study aimed to quantify the number of PWNs and expression levels of putative pathogenesis-related (PR) genes in different positions of Japanese black pine (Pinus thunbergii) seedlings over time. To quantify the number of PWNs in the seedlings, we used TaqMan quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) assay. During the early phase of infection, most PWNs were distributed around the inoculated sites, with only a small number being detected at distant sites, but the expression levels of PR genes were highly upregulated throughout the seedlings. Both the number of PWNs and expression levels of PR genes then increased drastically throughout the seedlings, all of which exhibited external symptoms. Thus, it appears that the rapid migration of PWNs induces a defence response throughout the seedling; however, this may not be effective in controlling these parasites, thereby ultimately leading to plant death.
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