Downy mildew disease, caused by the biotrophic oomycete Peronospora variabilis, is the largest threat to the cultivation of quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.) in the Andean highlands, and occurs worldwide. However, so far, no molecular study of the quinoa–Peronospora interaction has been reported. Here, we developed tools to study downy mildew disease in quinoa at the gene expression level. P. variabilis was isolated and maintained, allowing the study of downy mildew disease progression in two quinoa cultivars under controlled conditions. Quinoa gene expression changes induced by P. variabilis were analyzed by qRT-PCR, for quinoa homologues of A. thaliana pathogen-associated genes. Overall, we observed a slower disease progression and higher tolerance in the quinoa cultivar Kurmi than in the cultivar Maniqueña Real. The quinoa orthologs of putative defense genes such as the catalase CqCAT2 and the endochitinase CqEP3 showed no changes in gene expression. In contrast, quinoa orthologs of other defense response genes such as the transcription factor CqWRKY33 and the chaperone CqHSP90 were significantly induced in plants infected with P. variabilis. These genes could be used as defense response markers to select quinoa cultivars that are more tolerant to P. variabilis infection.
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