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Pine wilt disease (PWD) persists as one of the most devastating diseases affecting conifer forests, with severe repercussions on ecological and economic trade worldwide. PWD is caused by the plant-parasitic nematode (PPN), Bursaphelenchus xylophilus, which is native from North America but was ...

Pine wilt disease (PWD) persists as one of the most devastating diseases affecting conifer forests, with severe repercussions on ecological and economic trade worldwide. PWD is caused by the plant-parasitic nematode (PPN), Bursaphelenchus xylophilus, which is native from North America but was introduced into Japan in the beginning of the 20th Century. This disease is brought about by the interplay of different elements and their molecular, chemical, biological and physical interactions: the pine wood nematode (PWN), B. xylophilus; the insect-vector, Monochamus spp.; and the host, conifer species (mainly Pinus spp.). Many native tree species worldwide are highly susceptible to PWN such as Pinus pinaster (maritime pine), P. thunbergii (black pine) and P. sylvestris (scots pine), and the disease causes extensive damage, and affected regions may take decades to recover. Infected trees can die less than a year after infection given the appropriate environmental conditions. 

Belonging to the large Bursaphelenchus genus, the PWN is one of the two species that are plant-parasitic among the several fungal-feeding nematode. The commensal relation with the insect-vector, the dual-feeding strategy, and the narrow range of plant hosts makes B. xylophilus unique among the other PPN. The interactions of PPN with their hosts are mediated by parasitism proteins (or effectors). These secreted proteins produced by the pathogen interact with the host to promote disease. The improvement of plant resistance to PPN can be achieved by identifying effectors and functionally modifying them towards an effect in the nematode ability to infect the host. The study of effector biology in PWN has been revolutionized by the availability of genome, transcriptome, and secretome datasets. The ability to explore host-delivered mechanisms against the pathogens could have a tremendous impact from a biotechnology standpoint on important forestry species. Furthermore, even though considered a controversial matter among nematologists, bacteria and fungi have also been considered in this complex disease as potential contributors of PWD, alone or in interaction with PWN. Understanding the key mechanisms in the nematode-microbe relationship is essential to not only clear their function in the disease, but also in developing new insights into PWD disease management and PWN biological control.

The introduction and spreading of the PWN has a direct impact on forest natural resources and in the wood industry, and an indirect effect on the restrictions in the circulation of wood products from affected areas. Extensive death of infected trees causes environmental damage on an ecosystem scale. Moreover, as the damage caused by the PWN is more severe at high temperatures, it is predicted that climate change is likely to increase the problems caused by this nematode. The increasing restrictions on the use of pesticides, and other chemicals for agriculture require new, integrative and sustainable control solutions. The challenge persists in the forestry sector. Innovative and greener solutions are needed to maintain the sustainability of the forestry systems. 

This Research Topic aims to present an up-to-date in Pine wilt disease and welcomes review, opinion, and original research that provide/cover new insights in a range of topics including:
• Nematode-tree interactions
• Nematode-microbe interactions
• Insect-nematode interactions
• Tritrophic interactions among nematodes, microbes, and host
• Omics studies in biological interactions
• PWN genetics, biology studies
• Epidemiology of the disease
• Dissemination of the disease (modeling; prediction)
• Greener solutions for sustainable pest management: biotechnological advances and biological control

Please note that descriptive studies and those defining gene families or descriptive collection of transcripts, proteins, or metabolites, will not be considered for review unless they are expanded and provide mechanistic and/or physiological insights into the biological system or process being studied.

Keywords: pine wilt disease, integrated management, tree pathogen, conifer disease, plant-parasitic nematode, biological interactions, genetics


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