Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Putting the brakes on harmful fungal spores


What role do light-sensitive proteins play in a fungus that attacks rice plants? Researchers from Würzburg and Seville have answered this question: the proteins retard the germination of the fungal spores.

Fusarium fujikuroi: This is the name of a fungus that infects rice plants. It spreads through their tissues, makes their stems long and weak, and, in the worst-case scenario, kills them. If the plants survive this attack from the parasite, they do not yield a full harvest: it may be up to 20 percent smaller, as the International Rice Research Institute (in the Philippines) has found.

The CarO rhodopsin of the fungus Fusarium fujikuroi is found mainly in the spores (green dye). Spores without rhodopsin (bottom left) germinate far more quickly than those with rhodopsin (right).

Images: Ulrich Terpitz

The fungus attacks the rice via the grains or roots. If its spores reach there, they germinate and push fine tubes into the plant interior. Spore germination depends greatly on the protein CarO (carotenoid opsin), which belongs to the group of rhodopsins. This is reported by researchers from the University of Würzburg’s Biocenter and from the University of Seville in “Scientific Reports”, a journal by the Nature Group.

Describing the role of a fungal rhodopsin for the first time

Rhodopsins are found in all fungi that grow on plants. “Until now, however, nobody knew what biological functions they fulfil,” says Würzburg scientist Ulrich Terpitz. His junior research group at the Department of Biotechnology and Biophysics has now shed light on this matter for the first time. It has discovered with the fungus Fusarium fujikuroi that the CarO rhodopsin accumulates particularly strongly in the spores. It is activated by light and then acts as an ion pump that transports protons out from the fungal cell.

When the researchers examined fungi mutants lacking the rhodopsin, they found that the spores of such fungi germinate far more quickly than normal in the presence of light. “Light activates the rhodopsin, and this in turn retards the germination,” explains Terpitz.
Mechanism for regulating spore germination

This makes sense for the fungus: “The spores are created in the light, on the leaves of the rice plants. But they should not germinate until they are in dark soil because there they are close to the infection sites, by the roots, or fallen rice grains.” Presumably the CarO rhodopsin therefore helps prevent germination of the spores until they have reached the soil, says the Würzburg biologist.

Further studies on corn smut planned

As the next step, the researchers want to try to infect rice plants in the laboratory with rhodopsin-free fungal spores – to see whether the rhodopsin can affect the infectivity of the fungi. They are also planning to examine the rhodopsins of another fungus, corn smut (Ustilago maydis). In this pathogen there are two other rhodopsins alongside CarO. “We are also keen to take a very close look at their role as proton pumps and their positioning in the fungus,” says Terpitz.

This work is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG).

Light-sensitive proteins in fungi

Rhodopsins are only one group of light-sensitive proteins known in fungi. There is particular uncertainty regarding their role. The other light receptors, on the other hand, have been well researched. They are known to control many vital processes, such as the direction of growth of the hyphae, circadian rhythms, or spore formation.

García-Martínez, J., Brunk, M., Avalos, J. & Terpitz, U.: “The CarO rhodopsin of the fungus Fusarium fujikuroi is a light-driven proton pump that retards spore germination.” Scientific Reports 5, 7798; January 15, 2015, DOI:10.1038/srep07798


Dr. Ulrich Terpitz, Department of Biotechnology and Biophysics, University of Würzburg, T +49 (0)931 31-84226,

Robert Emmerich | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
Further information:

Further reports about: Fusarium corn smut fungal fungal spores fungi fungus fungus Fusarium proteins rice plants spores

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod

21.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Second research flight into zero gravity

21.10.2016 | Life Sciences

How Does Friendly Fire Happen in the Pancreas?

21.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>