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24, chemin de Borde Rouge -Auzeville - CS52627 31326 Castanet Tolosan cedex - France

Last update: May 2021

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Institut Sophia Agrobiotech

UMR INRA - Univ. Nice Sophia Antipolis - Cnrs

Plant-Nematode Interaction

The overall objective of the team, through various levels of study ranging from the gene to the field, is to acquire the scientific basis for a better understanding of the interaction between the plant and the nematode in order to envisage new specific, sustainable and environmentally friendly control methods. The research developed concerns the two partners in the interaction, i.e. the plant, with the study of the development of the disease (susceptibility) or the establishment of resistance, and the parasite, with the analysis of the pathogenicity and its capacity to evolve.

Positioning of the subject

Pesticides are a serious threat to the environment and human health, and our fellow citizens are now aware of and confronted with the consequences of their massive use over the last 50 years. Within these families of molecules, nematicides, which involve the most toxic active ingredients used in agriculture, target microscopic worms - nematodes - crop pests and pathogens of worldwide importance, capable of infesting all major types of crops (vegetables, fruit, cereals, etc.).

Some nematodes, among the most damaging to agriculture, show a very original parasitic adaptation. Their development in the plant depends on their ability to induce a feeding structure made up of giant cells. This feeding structure strongly alters the normal functioning of the root system and leads to a decrease in crop yield.

In the 1990s, the market for nematicides reached more than 540 billion euros per year worldwide, and now the progressive banning of chemical nematicides makes the fight against these pests a global issue. The use of natural plant resistance is an alternative to be developed, in terms of effectiveness and sustainability.

General theme and objectives

The studies are structured around two main projects:

  • Molecular determinants of compatible interaction;
  • Evolution of nematode pathogenicity and durability of resistance genes.

Main biological models

Nematodes :

  • Root-Knot Nematodes : Meloidogyne spp.
  • Nematode virus-vector : Xiphinema index, vector of GFLV (grapevine leaf spot virus)


  • Arabidopsis thaliana and Medicago truncatula
  • Annual plants of agronomic interest: solanaceae family (tomato, pepper, etc.), or perennial plants: Prunus family (plum, almond, peach, etc.) or Vitis species.
Interactions Plantes Nématodes

A. Root galls, symptom of infection, on tomato roots B. Genomic analysis of the developmental stages of the nematode Meloidogyne incognita. C. Testing the durability of nematode resistance in pepper under greenhouse conditions. D. Nematode proteins secreted by the stylet during parasitism and involved in the formation of feeding giant cells. E. Enlarged giant cells (*) induced by root-knot nematodes (n). F. Giant cells (*) with multiple nuclei (blue) and large cortical microtubule bundles (green).

Scientific originality of the team

The team develops multifaceted approaches to understand the interaction between the plant and the nematode. To do this, it has know-how and experimental facilities specific to nematology that enable it to develop studies with a high level of originality and to have a very good international positioning.

Indeed, the problem of plant-nematode interaction addresses questions that touch on several scientific fronts. For example, the study of nematode-induced giant cells concerns the biology of plant development and the analysis of salivary secretions concerns the study of invertebrate pathogenesis factors. These studies also respond to strong societal demands such as the development of sustainable and environmentally friendly phytosanitary strategies.

In addition, the team initiated the sequencing of the M. incognita genome in close collaboration with the Génoscope and the Toulouse bioinformatics platform. The team is coordinating an international consortium for the annotation of this genome. Access to this genome should open up new horizons in terms of comparative genomics aimed at understanding the interaction with the plant and the evolutionary mechanisms of these nematodes.

Finally, the team is involved in a national INRA project (Bordeaux, Montpellier, Colmar) aimed at obtaining GFLV-resistant vines on grapevines (resistant to the nematode vector and/or the virus).

Current issues

  • What are the mechanisms involved in the susceptibility of plants to root-knot nematodes?
  • What are the mechanisms involved in the pathogenicity of root-knot nematodes?
  • How do these parthenogenetic (clonal reproduction) nematodes evolve in response to selection pressure for plant resistance genes?
  • How can the sustainability of plant resistance to nematodes be assessed and improved?

Scientific partnership and programme support

  • National collaborations: Department of Genetics and Plant Improvement (DGAP) of Avignon and Bordeaux, private breeders (Sygenta, Vilmorin, ...)
  • International collaborations: WUR Wageningen (NL), SCRI Dundee (Scotland), CNR Bari (I), Gent University (B), Toledo University (E), BOKU Vienna (A), NCSU Raleigh (USA), ISU Ames (USA), GU Athens (USA), MU Columbia (USA), Kumamoto University (Japan), CAAS and CAU (China)...
  • Participation in numerous important collaborative networks at the European level (European contracts of the 4th, 5th and 6th FP) and international level ("International Molecular Plant-Nematode Interaction group" which brings together several American and European laboratories)
  • Financial support from national or international bodies (ANR, Génoplante, etc.)