Colletotrichum species are fungal pathogens that devastate crop plants worldwide. Host infection involves the differentiation of specialized cell types that are associated with penetration, growth inside living host cells (biotrophy) and tissue destruction (necrotrophy). We report here genome and transcriptome analyses of Colletotrichum higginsianum infecting Arabidopsis thaliana and Colletotrichum graminicola infecting maize. Comparative genomics showed that both fungi have large sets of pathogenicity-related genes, but families of genes encoding secreted effectors, pectin-degrading enzymes, secondary metabolism enzymes, transporters and peptidases are expanded in C. higginsianum. Genome-wide expression profiling revealed that these genes are transcribed in successive waves that are linked to pathogenic transitions: effectors and secondary metabolism enzymes are induced before penetration and during biotrophy, whereas most hydrolases and transporters are upregulated later, at the switch to necrotrophy. Our findings show that preinvasion perception of plant-derived signals substantially reprograms fungal gene expression and indicate previously unknown functions for particular fungal cell types.