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Triggering the plant defence response induces essential oil production in Indian sandalwood

Tungngeon, K., Norris, L., Flematti, G., Burgess, T.ORCID: 0000-0002-7962-219X, Finnegan, P., Ghisalberti, E., Barbour, L. and Plummer, J. (2013) Triggering the plant defence response induces essential oil production in Indian sandalwood. In: ComBio 2013, 29 September - 3 October, Perth, Western Australia.


Indian sandalwood (Santalum album) produces sesquiterpene-rich essential oil inside the mature aromatic heartwood. This wood is dark in colour and is mainly located at the base of the trunk, decreasing in extent inversely with trunk height. Our previous work suggested that the defence response of S. album trees against fungal attack likely included the production of essential oil. In this project, two fungi that were associated with rot in S. album were inoculated back into the branches of 12-year-old trees. Branches were also inoculated separately with two plant hormones that prime trees against fungal attack. All treatments caused wood staining within 2 months. The essential oil extracted from the stained wood contained the sesquiterpenes α-santalol, β-santalol and (Z)-lanceol. The composition of the oil changed with time, resembling the oil in the trunk of a mature tree within eight months. The amount of oil produced differed among the treatments. Importantly, this is the first clear demonstration that the branches of S. album can be induced to produce oil. The promoter sequences for genes encoding santalene synthase, monoterpene synthase and sesquiterpene synthase, enzymes involved in sesquiterpene synthesis in S. album, contain numerous sequence elements potentially responsive to wounding, fungal infection or plant hormones, providing a promising molecular explanation for our results.

Item Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
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