Cutin-Derived Oligomers Act as Damage-Associated Molecular Patterns in Arabidopsis thaliana

The cuticle constitutes the outermost defensive barrier of most land plants. It comprises a polymeric matrix - cutin, surrounded by soluble waxes. Moreover, the cuticle constitutes the first line of defence against pathogen invasion, while also protecting the plant from many abiotic stresses. Aliphatic monomers in cutin have been suggested to act as immune elicitors in plants. This study analyses the potential of tomato cutin oligomers to act as damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs) able to induce a rapid immune response in the model plant Arabidopsis. Cutin oligomeric mixtures led to Ca2+ influx and MAPK activation in Arabidopsis. Comparable responses were measured for cutin, which was also able to induce a reactive oxygen species (ROS) burst. Furthermore, treatment of Arabidopsis with cutin oligomers resulted in a unique transcriptional reprogramming profile, having many archetypal features of pattern-triggered immunity (PTI). Targeted spectroscopic and spectrometric analyses of the cutin oligomers suggest that the elicitors compounds consist mostly of two up to three 10,16-dihydroxy-hexadecanoic acid monomers linked together through ester bonds. This study demonstrates that cutin breakdown products can act as DAMPs; a novel class of elicitors deserving further characterization.