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Interactions between the flax rust fungus Melampsora lini and flax Linum usitatissimum L. are governed by a gene-for-gene relationship which determines pathogen virulence or avirulence and host resistance or susceptibility. The present study demonstrates differential sensitivity of M. lini and flax to the microtubule depolymerising drug, oryzalin, such that microtubule depolymerisation in flax cells but not in fungal cells could be obtained. Normally, in an incompatible interaction, a rapid hypersensitive response about 24 h after inoculation inhibits fungal development and invasion. However, in an incompatible interaction in the presence of oryzalin, the occurrence of hypersensitive cell death was delayed and its frequency reduced. This allowed a normally avirulent race of M. lini to form haustoria in living host mesophyll cells at a rate and efficiency similar to that achieved by a virulent race in a compatible interaction during the first 36 h after inoculation. After that time, the incidence of hypersensitive cell death increased and further development of the pathogen was arrested. The results indicate that microtubules play a role in effecting rapid and efficient hypersensitive response in the race-cultivar specific interaction between flax and the flax rust fungus.
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