Among their responses to microbial infection, plants deploy an arsenal of natural antibiotic products. These historically have been identified on the basis of their antibiotic activity in vitro, which leaves open the question of their relevance to defense in planta.


The vast majority of such natural products from the important crop plant rice (Oryza sativa) are diterpenoids whose biosynthesis proceeds via either ent- or syn- copalyl diphosphate (CPP) intermediates, and which were isolated on the basis of their antibiotic activity against the fungal blast pathogen Magnaporthe oryzae. However, rice plants in which the gene for the syn-CPP synthase Os-CPS4 is knocked-out do not exhibit increased susceptibility to M. oryzae. Here we show that knocking-out or knocking-down Os-CPS4 actually decreases susceptibility to the bacterial leaf blight pathogen Xanthomonas oryzae. By contrast, genetic manipulation of the gene for the ent-CPP synthase Os-CPS2 alters susceptibility to both M. oryzae and X. oryzae. Despite the secretion of diterpenoids dependent on Os-CPS2 or Os-CPS4 from roots, neither knock-out exhibited significant changes in the composition of their rhizosphere bacterial communities. Nevertheless, rice plants allocate substantial metabolic resources towards syn- and ent-CPP derived diterpenoids upon infection/induction. Further investigation revealed that Os-CPS4 plays a role in fungal non-host disease resistance. Thus, examination of metabolic allocation provides important clues into physiological function.