Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Differences in the genomes of related plant pathogens

13.08.2012
Even in closely related species, lifestyle molds the genetic makeup of pathogens and how their genes are used

Many crop plants worldwide are attacked by a group of fungi that numbers more than 680 different species. After initial invasion, they first grow stealthily inside living plant cells, but then switch to a highly destructive life-style, feeding on dead cells.

While some species switch completely to host destruction, others maintain stealthy and destructive modes simultaneously. A team of scientists led by Richard O'Connell from the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne and Lisa Vaillancourt from University of Kentucky in Lexington have investigated the genetic basis for these two strategies.

The researchers found that pathogen life-style has moulded the composition of these fungal genomes and determines when particular genes are switched on. They also discovered surprising new functions for fungal infection organs.

Colletotrichum fungi cause rots and leaf spot diseases which are spread by wind and rain splash. They cause devastating economic losses on food and biofuel crops running into billions of euros each year. While some species attack many different plants, others are highly selective and attack just one host plant. The two species investigated by O'Connell and his colleagues differ in their life-style and their host specificity. One species preferentially attacks crucifers, including thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana), a model plant important for biologists.

Within just a few hours, this pathogen switches its metabolism towards the complete destruction of the plant cells. For this fungus, benign coexistence and massive destruction are separated in time. The other species studied is specifically adapted to maize. In one part of the plant it produces proteins to promote symptomless coexistence, while elsewhere it produces proteins to break-down and digest plant cells. In this case, the two life-styles are spatially separated.

The strength of this work, published in Nature Genetics, is that the researchers analysed both the genome and transcriptome of these two fungi. "The transcriptome reveals which genes are switched on and when. Several other fungal genomes have already been decoded, but never with such detailed information about if and when each gene is used during plant infection", says O'Connell. For example, both genomes have similar numbers of genes for hemicellulase enzymes, with which the plant cell wall is decomposed. However, the maize fungus switches on many more of these genes because the cell walls of maize contain more hemicellulose than do plants attacked by the Arabidopsis fungus. "This difference could not have been identified simply from cataloguing the numbers of such genes in the genome: transcriptome data are essential to obtain this information", explains O'Connell.

The genomes of the two pathogens are similar in size, but the Arabidopsis fungus accommodates more genes in its genome, probably as a result of its broader host range. A pathogen that attacks a single plant requires fewer genes than one which colonizes many different plants. This is especially true for "effector" genes, which are required by the fungus to protect itself from the plant's defence responses. Both fungi have remarkably large numbers of genes for producing secondary metabolites, which are small molecules with potential roles during infection. "We are not aware of any other phytopathogenic fungi that produce so many secondary metabolites", says Jochen Kleemann who, together with other colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne, was also involved the study. "The genes for these products are switched on very early on during infection and are therefore potential targets for plant protection. But first we need to understand more about the functions of these molecules", continues Kleemann.

The scientists also discovered previously unknown functions of the fungal adhesion organ, the appressorium. The appressorium is formed after a fungal spore lands on the leaf surface and builds up a high pressure, with which the fungus pushes itself into the interior of the plant cell, like a finger into an inflated balloon. "On a leaf, the adhesion organ switches on completely different genes than when it is located on a plastic surface. It must in some way recognize where it is", says O'Connell. The adhesion organ would thus appear not only to open the door into the plant cell, but also to sense the presence of the plant. "Appressoria were discovered almost 130 years ago, but it is only from our research that it has become clear that they also have a sensing function", says Kleemann.

Original work:

Richard J O'Connell et al.
Lifestyle transitions in plant pathogenic Colletotrichum fungi deciphered by genome and transcriptome analyses

Nature Genetics, August 12, 2012, DOI: 10.1038/ng.2372

Richard O'Connell | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.mpipz.mpg.de

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Bacterial Nanosized Speargun Works Like a Power Drill
26.09.2017 | Universität Basel

nachricht Two Group A Streptococcus genes linked to 'flesh-eating' bacterial infections
25.09.2017 | University of Maryland

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: LaserTAB: More efficient and precise contacts thanks to human-robot collaboration

At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.

Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Fraunhofer ISE Pushes World Record for Multicrystalline Silicon Solar Cells to 22.3 Percent

25.09.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Usher syndrome: Gene therapy restores hearing and balance

25.09.2017 | Health and Medicine

An international team of physicists a coherent amplification effect in laser excited dielectrics

25.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>