Scientific Reports volume 13, Article number: 14664 (2023)
Downy mildew (DM; Plasmopara viticola) is amongst the most severe fungal diseases in viticulture and the reason for the majority of fungicide applications. To reduce synthetic and copper-based fungicides, there is an urgent need for natural alternatives, which are being increasingly tested by the industry and the research community. However, their mode of action remains unclear. Therefore, our study aimed to investigate the transcriptomic changes induced by oregano essential oil vapour (OEOV) in DM-infected grapevines. OEOV was applied at different time points before and after DM infection to differentiate between a priming effect and a direct effect. Both pre-DM treatment with OEOV and post-infection treatment resulted in a significant reduction in DM sporulation. RNA-seq, followed by differential gene expression and weighted gene co-expression network analysis, identified co-expressed gene modules associated with secondary metabolism, pathogen recognition and response. Surprisingly, the molecular mechanisms underlying the efficiency of OEOV against DM appear to be independent of stilbene synthesis, and instead involve genes from a putative signalling pathway that has yet to be characterized. This study enhances our understanding of the molecular regulation of innate plant immunity and provides new insights into the mode of action of alternative natural antifungal agents.