Received: 08 Jan 2018 Revised: 04 Jun 2018 Accepted: 04 Jun 2018 Published online: 01 Nov 2018
Marssonina apple blotch, caused by Diplocarpon mali, is one of the most serious diseases of apple. Autophagy plays a key role in pathogen resistance. We previously showed that MdATG18a has a positive influence on drought tolerance. Herein, we describe how overexpression (OE) of MdATG18a enhances resistance to D. mali infection, probably because less H2O2 but more salicylic acid (SA) is accumulated in the leaves of OE apple plants. Expression of chitinase, β-1,3-glucanase, and SA-related marker genes was induced more strongly by D. mali in OE lines. Transcript levels of other important MdATG genes were also drastically increased by D. mali in OE plants, which indicated increased autophagy activities. Taken together, these results demonstrate that OE of MdATG18a enhances resistance to infection by D. mali and plays positive roles in H2O2-scavenging and SA accumulations. Our findings provide important information for designing strategies which could induce autophagy to minimize the impact of this disease on apple production.