Medicago truncatula is a model legume species used to investigate plant-microorganism interactions, notably root symbioses. Massive population genomic and transcriptomic data now available for this species open the way for a comprehensive investigation of genomic variations associated with adaptation of M. truncatula to its environment. Here we performed a fine-scale genome scan of selective sweep signatures in Medicago truncatula using more than 15 million SNPs identified on 283 accessions from two populations (Circum and Far West), and exploited annotation and published transcriptomic data to identify biological processes associated with molecular adaptation. We identified 58 swept genomic regions with a 15 kb average length and comprising 3.3 gene models on average. The unimodal sweep state probability distribution in these regions enabled us to focus on the best single candidate gene per region. We detected two unambiguous species-wide selective sweeps, one of which appears to underlie morphological adaptation. Population genomic analyses of the remaining 56 sweep signatures indicate that sweeps identified in the Far West population are less population-specific and probably more ancient than those identified in the Circum population. Functional annotation revealed a predominance of immunity-related adaptations in the Circum population. Transcriptomic data from accessions of the Far West population allowed inference of four clusters of co-regulated genes putatively involved in the adaptive control of symbiotic carbon flow and nodule senescence, as well as in other root adaptations upon infection with soil microorganisms. We demonstrate that molecular adaptations in Medicago truncatula were primarily triggered by selective pressures from root-associated micro-organisms.
MPMI has played a leading role in disseminating new insights into plant-microbe interactions and promoting new approaches. Articles in this Focus Issue highlight the power of genomic studies in uncovering novel determinants of plant interactions with microbial symbionts (good), pathogens (bad), and complex microbial communities (unknown). Many articles also illustrate how genomics can support translational research by quickly advancing our knowledge of important microbes that have not been widely studied.
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How generalist parasites with wide host ranges can evolve is a central question in parasite evolution. Albugo candida is an obligate biotrophic parasite that consists of many physiological races that each specialize on distinct Brassicaceae host species. By analyzing genome sequence assemblies of five isolates, we show they represent three races that are genetically diverged by ~1%. Despite this divergence, their genomes are mosaic-like, with ~25% being introgressed from other races. Sequential infection experiments show that infection by adapted races enables subsequent infection of hosts by normally non-infecting races. This facilitates introgression and the exchange of effector repertoires, and may enable the evolution of novel races that can undergo clonal population expansion on new hosts. We discuss recent studies on hybridization in other eukaryotes such as yeast, Heliconius butterflies, Darwin's finches, sunflowers and cichlid fishes, and the implications of introgression for pathogen evolution in an agro-ecological environment.
Members of the genus Xanthomonas are among the most important phytopathogens. A key feature of Xanthomonas pathogenesis is the translocation of type III secretion system (T3SS) effector proteins (T3SEs) into the plant target cells via a T3SS. Several T3SEs and a murein lytic transglycosylase gene (mlt, required for citrus canker symptoms) are found associated with three transposition-related genes in Xanthomonas citri plasmid pXAC64. These are flanked by short inverted repeats (IRs). The region was identified as a transposon, TnXax1, with typical Tn3 family features, including a transposase and two recombination genes. Two 14-bp palindromic sequences within a 193-bp potential resolution site occur between the recombination genes. Additional derivatives carrying different T3SEs and other passenger genes occur in different Xanthomonas species. The T3SEs include transcription activator-like effectors (TALEs). Certain TALEs are flanked by the same IRs as found in TnXax1 to form mobile insertion cassettes (MICs), suggesting that they may be transmitted horizontally. A significant number of MICs carrying other passenger genes (including a number of TALE genes) were also identified, flanked by the same TnXax1 IRs and delimited by 5-bp target site duplications. We conclude that a large fraction of T3SEs, including individual TALEs and potential pathogenicity determinants, have spread by transposition and that TnXax1, which exhibits all of the essential characteristics of a functional transposon, may be involved in driving MIC transposition. We also propose that TALE genes may diversify by fork slippage during the replicative Tn3 family transposition. These mechanisms may play a crucial role in the emergence of Xanthomonas pathogenicity.
Background Many plant-pathogenic fungi have a tendency towards genome size expansion, mostly driven by increasing content of transposable elements (TEs). Through comparative and evolutionary genomics, five members of the Leptosphaeria maculans-Leptosphaeria biglobosa species complex (class Dothideomycetes, order Pleosporales), having different host ranges and pathogenic abilities towards cruciferous plants, were studied to infer the role of TEs on genome shaping, speciation, and on the rise of better adapted pathogens.Results L. maculans ‘brassicae’, the most damaging species on oilseed rape, is the only member of the species complex to have a TE-invaded genome (32.5%) compared to the other members genomes (<4%). These TEs had an impact at the structural level by creating large TE-rich regions and are suspected to have been instrumental in chromosomal rearrangements possibly leading to speciation. TEs, associated with species-specific genes involved in disease process, also possibly had an incidence on evolution of pathogenicity by promoting translocations of effector genes to highly dynamic regions and thus tuning the regulation of effector gene expression in planta.Conclusions Invasion of L. maculans ‘brassicae’ genome by TEs followed by bursts of TE activity allowed this species to evolve and to better adapt to its host, making this genome species a peculiarity within its own species complex as well as in the Pleosporales lineage.
Rust fungi are devastating crop pathogens that deliver effector proteins into infected tissues to modulate plant functions and promote parasitic growth. The genome of the poplar leaf rust fungus Melampsora larici-populina revealed a large catalogue of secreted proteins, some of which have been considered candidate effectors. Unravelling how these proteins function in host cells is key to understanding pathogenicity mechanisms and developing resistant plants. In this study, we used an effectoromics pipeline to select, clone, and express 20 candidate effectors in Nicotiana benthamiana leaf cells to determine their subcellular localisation and identify the plant proteins they interact with. Confocal microscopy revealed that six candidate effectors target the nucleus, nucleoli, chloroplasts, mitochondria and discrete cellular bodies. We also used coimmunoprecipitation and mass spectrometry to identify 606 N. benthamiana proteins that associate with the candidate effectors. Five candidate effectors specifically associated with a small set of plant proteins that may represent biologically relevant interactors. We confirmed the interaction between the candidate effector MLP124017 and the TOPLESS-Related Protein 4 from poplar by in planta coimmunoprecipitation. Altogether, our data enable us to validate effector proteins from M. larici-populina and reveal that these proteins may target multiple compartments and processes in plant cells. It also shows that N. benthamiana can be a powerful heterologous system to study effectors of obligate biotrophic pathogens.
An individual of the mushroom-forming fungus Armillaria bulbosa is among the largest and oldest of all living organisms: More than 1500 years old, it covers more than 15 ha and weighs more than 10,000 kg (1). Some trees can also reach ages of thousands of years (2). How can such long-lived organisms keep the number of deleterious mutations during somatic growth in check? In a recent paper in Mycologia, Anderson and Catona (3) report extremely low genetic variation, and by inference a very low mutation rate, in a long-lived individual of another fungus, Armillaria gallica (see the photo). This genomic stability is puzzling and unexpected, because the sequenced samples come from locations that are more than 100 m apart and presumably separated by many rounds of cell division.
Advances in genome-based studies on plant-associated microorganisms have transformed our understanding of many plant pathogens and are beginning to greatly widen our knowledge of plant interactions with mutualistic and commensal microorganisms. Pathogenomics has revealed how pathogenic microorganisms adapt to particular hosts, subvert innate immune responses and change host range, as well as how new pathogen species emerge. Similarly, culture-independent community profiling methods, coupled with metagenomic and metatranscriptomic studies, have provided the first insights into the emerging field of research on plant-associated microbial communities. Together, these approaches have the potential to bridge the gap between plant microbial ecology and plant pathology, which have traditionally been two distinct research fields.
Vascular wilts caused by Verticillium spp. are destructive plant diseases, affecting hundreds of hosts. Only few Verticillium spp. are causal agents of vascular wilt diseases, of which V. dahliae is the most notorious pathogen, and several V. dahliae genomes are available. In contrast, V. tricorpus is mainly known as saprophyte and causal agent of opportunistic infections. Based on a hybrid approach that combines second and third generation sequencing, a near-gapless V. tricorpus genome assembly was obtained. With comparative genomics, we aimed to identify genomic features in V. dahliae that confer the ability to cause vascular wilt disease. Unexpectedly, both species encode similar effector repertoires and share a genomic structure with genes encoding secreted proteins clustered in genomic islands. Intriguingly, V. tricorpus contains significantly less repetitive elements and an extended spectrum of secreted carbohydrate-active enzymes when compared with V. dahliae. In conclusion, we highlight the technical advances of a hybrid sequencing and assembly approach and reveal that the saprophyte V. tricorpus shares many hallmark features with V. dahliae.
Movement of RNAs between cells of a single plant is well documented, but cross-species RNA transfer is largely unexplored. Cuscuta pentagona (dodder) is a parasitic plant that forms symplastic connections with its hosts and takes up host messenger RNAs (mRNAs). We sequenced transcriptomes of Cuscuta growing on Arabidopsis and tomato hosts to characterize mRNA transfer between species and found that mRNAs move in high numbers and in a bidirectional manner. The mobile transcripts represented thousands of different genes, and nearly half the expressed transcriptome of Arabidopsis was identified in Cuscuta. These findings demonstrate that parasitic plants can exchange large proportions of their transcriptomes with hosts, providing potential mechanisms for RNA-based interactions between species and horizontal gene transfer.
Smut fungi are well-suited to investigate the ecology and evolution of plant pathogens, as they are strictly biotrophic, yet cultivable on media. Here we report the genome sequence of Melanopsichium pennsylvanicum, closely related to Ustilago maydis and other Poaceae-infecting smuts, but parasitic to a dicot plant. To explore the evolutionary patterns resulting from host adaptation after this huge host jump, the genome of M. pennsylvanicum was sequenced and compared to the genomes of Ustilago maydis, Sporisorium reilianum, and Ustilago hordei. While all four genomes had a similar completeness in CEGMA analyses, gene absence was highest in M. pennsylvanicum, and most pronounced in putative secreted proteins, which are often considered as effector candidates. In contrast, the amount of private genes was similar among the species, highlighting that gene loss rather than gene gain is the hallmark of adaptation after the host jump to the dicot host. Our analyses revealed a trend of putative effectors to be next to another putative effector, but the majority of these are not in clusters and thus the focus on pathogenicity clusters might not be appropriate for all smut genomes. Positive selection studies revealed that M. pennsylvanicum has the highest number and proportion of genes under positive selection. In general, putative effectors showed a higher proportion of positively selected genes than non-effector candidates. The 248 putative secreted effectors found in all four smut genomes might constitute a core set needed for pathogenicity, while those 92 that are found in all grass-parasitic smuts, but have no ortholog in M. pennsylvanicum might constitute a set of effectors important for successful colonization of grass hosts.
In the genome of the biotrophic plant pathogen Ustilago maydis, many of the genes coding for secreted protein effectors modulating virulence are arranged in gene clusters. The vast majority of these genes encode novel proteins whose expression is coupled to plant colonization. The largest of these gene clusters, cluster 19A, encodes 24 secreted effectors. Deletion of the entire cluster results in severe attenuation of virulence. Here we present the functional analysis of this genomic region. We show that a 19A deletion mutant behaves like an endophyte, i.e. is still able to colonize plants and complete the infection cycle. However, tumors, the most conspicuous symptoms of maize smut disease, are only rarely formed and fungal biomass in infected tissue is significantly reduced. The generation and analysis of strains carrying sub-deletions identified several genes significantly contributing to tumor formation after seedling infection. Another of the effectors could be linked specifically to anthocyanin induction in the infected tissue. As the individual contributions of these genes to tumor formation were small, we studied the response of maize plants to the whole cluster mutant as well as to several individual mutants by array analysis. This revealed distinct plant responses, demonstrating that the respective effectors have discrete plant targets. We propose that the analysis of plant responses to effector mutant strains that lack a strong virulence phenotype may be a general way to visualize differences in effector function.
Meloidogyne incognita is one of the most economically damaging plant pathogens in agriculture and horticulture. Identifying and characterizing the effector proteins, which M. incognita secretes into its host plants during infection, is an important step towards finding new ways to manage this pest. In this study we have identified the cDNAs for 18 putative effectors, i.e., proteins that have the potential to facilitate M. incognita parasitism of host plants. These putative effectors are secretory proteins that do not contain transmembrane domains and whose genes are specifically expressed in the secretory gland cells of the nematode, indicating that they are likely secreted from the nematode through its stylet. We have determined that in the plant cells, these putative effectors are likely to localize to cytoplasm. Furthermore, the transcripts of many of these novel effectors are specifically up regulated during different stages of the nematode’s life cycle, indicating that they function at specific stages during M. incognita parasitism. The predicted proteins showed little to no homology to known proteins from free-living nematode species, suggesting that they evolved recently to support the parasitic lifestyle. On the other hand, several of the effectors are part of gene families within the M. incognita genome as well as that of Meloidogyne hapla, which points to an important role that these putative effectors are playing in both parasites. With the discovery of these putative effectors we have increased our knowledge of the effector repertoire utilized by root-knot nematodes to infect, feed, and reproduce on their host plants. Future studies investigating the roles these proteins play in planta will help mitigate the effects of this damaging pest.
Host resistance is the most economical, effective and ecologically sustainable method of controlling diseases in crop plants. In bread wheat, despite the high number of resistance loci that have been cataloged to date, only few have been cloned, underlying the need for genomics-guided investigations capable of providing a prompt and acute knowledge on the identity of effective resistance genes that can be used in breeding programs. Proteins with a nucleotide-binding site (NBS) encoded by the major plant disease resistance (R) genes play an important role in the responses of plants to various pathogens. In this study, a comprehensive analysis of NBS-encoding genes within the whole wheat genome was performed, and the genome scale characterization of this gene family was established. From the recently published wheat genome sequence, we used a data mining and automatic prediction pipeline to identify 580 complete ORF candidate NBS-encoding genes and 1,099 partial-ORF ones. Among complete gene models, 464 were longer than 200 aa, among them 436 had less than 70 % of sequence identity to each other. This gene models set was deeply characterized. (1) First, we have analyzed domain architecture and identified, in addition to typical domain combinations, the presence of particular domains like signal peptides, zinc fingers, kinases, heavy-metal-associated and WRKY DNA-binding domains. (2) Functional and expression annotation via homology searches in protein and transcript databases, based on sufficient criteria, enabled identifying similar proteins for 60 % of the studied gene models and expression evidence for 13 % of them. (3) Shared orthologous groups were defined using NBS-domain proteins of rice and Brachypodium distachyon. (4) Finally, alignment of the 436 NBS-containing gene models to the full set of scaffolds from the IWGSC’s wheat chromosome survey sequence enabled high-stringence anchoring to chromosome arms. The distribution of the R genes was found balanced on the three wheat sub-genomes. In contrast, at chromosome scale, 50 % of members of this gene family were localized on 6 of the 21 wheat chromosomes and ~22 % of them were localized on homeologous group 7. The results of this study provide a detailed analysis of the largest family of plant disease resistance genes in allohexaploid wheat. Some structural traits reported had not been previously identified and the genome-derived data were confronted with those stored in databases outlining the functional specialization of members of this family. The large reservoir of NBS-type genes presented and discussed will, firstly, form an important framework for marker-assisted improvement of resistance in wheat, and, secondly, open up new perspectives for a better understanding of the evolution dynamics of this gene family in grass species and in polyploid systems.
Field pathogenomics adds highly informative data to surveillance surveys by enabling rapid evaluation of pathogen variability, population structure and host genotype.
Yellow rust, caused by Puccinia striiformis f. sp. tritici (PST), is a major disease of wheat and, together with stem rust (Puccinia graminis) and leaf rust (Puccinia triticina), causes some of the most devastating epidemics on wheat worldwide . Control of these rust pathogens relies predominantly on breeding and deployment of resistant varieties of wheat. To date, nearly 200 wheat-rust-resistance genes have been catalogued ; however, resistance has often proved to be ephemeral owing to changes in the pathogen population. In order to increase the durability of resistance, gene-deployment strategies need to consider extant and potential pathogen variability. Although these concepts are not new , their implementation was difficult until the advent of high-throughput sequencing (HTS) and genotyping technologies.
Next-generation sequencing technologies provide new opportunities to study pathogens and the hosts they infect. The increasing availability of crop and pathogen genomes  is providing new insights into pathogen biology, population structure and pathogenesis. This provides new opportunities for disease management. An important input into resistance breeding programs should be surveillance of the pathogen population. High-throughput pathogenomics offers the possibility for analyzing a large number of pathogen isolates and host varieties rapidly and at low cost.
In an article published in Genome Biology, Hubbard and colleagues  implemented a robust and rapid method to screen field isolates of PST and their host cultivars. In this particular version of pathogenomics, a selected set of 39 samples of infected wheat and triticale leaf tissue were collected directly from the field in 2013 and analyzed using RNAseq. In addition, the genomes of 21 archived PST isolates from the UK and France were also sequenced. Transcriptome analysis restricted the amount of sequence necessary to obtain diagnostic information for both host and pathogen; this not only accelerated genetic analysis of PST populations in situ but also allowed simultaneous assessment of the host genotype in the same sequencing runs. Another advantage of transcriptome analysis is that it detects genes being expressed and therefore the determinants of the interaction; thus, non-expressed genes present in the genome do not obscure genotype-phenotype correlations.
Background Emerging and re-emerging pathogens imperil public health and global food security. Responding to these threats requires improved surveillance and diagnostic systems. Despite their potential, genomic tools have not been readily applied to emerging or re-emerging plant pathogens such as the wheat yellow (stripe) rust pathogen Puccinia striiformis f. sp. tritici (PST). This is due largely to the obligate parasitic nature of PST, as culturing PST isolates for DNA extraction remains slow and tedious. Results To counteract the limitations associated with culturing PST, we developed and applied a field pathogenomics approach by transcriptome sequencing infected wheat leaves collected from the field in 2013. This enabled us to rapidly gain insights into this emerging pathogen population. We found that the PST population across the United Kingdom, UK, underwent a major shift in recent years. Population genetic structure analyses revealed four distinct lineages that correlated to the phenotypic groups determined through traditional pathology-based virulence assays. Furthermore, the genetic diversity between members of a single population cluster for all 2013 PST field samples was much higher than that displayed by historical UK isolates, revealing a more-diverse population of PST. Conclusions Our field pathogenomics approach uncovered a dramatic shift in the PST population in the UK, likely due to a recent introduction of a diverse set of exotic PST lineages. The methodology described herein accelerates genetic analysis of pathogen populations and circumvents the difficulties associated with obligate plant pathogens. In principle, this strategy can be widely applied to a variety of plant pathogens.
To elucidate the genetic bases of mycorrhizal lifestyle evolution, we sequenced new fungal genomes, including 13 ectomycorrhizal (ECM), orchid (ORM) and ericoid (ERM) species, and five saprotrophs, which we analyzed along with other fungal genomes. Ectomycorrhizal fungi have a reduced complement of genes encoding plant cell wall–degrading enzymes (PCWDEs), as compared to their ancestral wood decayers. Nevertheless, they have retained a unique array of PCWDEs, thus suggesting that they possess diverse abilities to decompose lignocellulose. Similar functional categories of nonorthologous genes are induced in symbiosis. Of induced genes, 7–38% are orphan genes, including genes that encode secreted effector-like proteins. Convergent evolution of the mycorrhizal habit in fungi occurred via the repeated evolution of a 'symbiosis toolkit', with reduced numbers of PCWDEs and lineage-specific suites of mycorrhiza-induced genes.
Saprotrophic and parasitic microorganisms secrete proteins into the environment to breakdown macromolecules and obtain nutrients. The molecules secreted are collectively termed the ‘secretome’ and the composition and function of this set of proteins varies depending on the ecology, life cycle, and environment of an organism. Beyond the function of nutrient acquisition, parasitic lineages must also secrete molecules to counteract host defenses. Here we use a combination of de-novo genome and transcriptome sequencing and bioinformatic identification of signal peptides to identify the putative secreted proteome of two oomycetes, the facultative parasite Achlya hypogyna and free-living Thraustotheca clavata. By comparing the secretomes of these saprolegnialean oomycetes with that of 8 other oomycetes, we were able to characterize the evolution of this protein set across the oomycete clade. These species span the last common ancestor of the two major oomycete families allowing us to identify the ancestral secretome. This ancestral secretome consists of at least 84 gene families that encode putatively secreted proteins. Only 11 of these gene families are conserved across all 10 secretomes analysed and the two major branches in the oomycete radiation. Notably, we have identified expressed elicitin-like effector genes in the saprotrophic decomposer, T. clavata. Phylogenetic analyses show six novel HGTs to the oomycete secretome from bacterial and fungal donor lineages, four of which are specific to the Saprolegnialeans. Comparisons between free-living and pathogenic taxa highlight the functional changes of oomycete secretomes associated with shifts in lifestyle.
Coffee leaf rust caused by the fungus Hemileia vastatrix is the most damaging disease to coffee worldwide. The pathogen has recently appeared in multiple outbreaks in coffee producing countries resulting in significant yield losses and increases in costs related to its control. New races/isolates are constantly emerging as evidenced by the presence of the fungus in plants that were previously resistant. Genomic studies are opening new avenues for the study of the evolution of pathogens, the detailed description of plant-pathogen interactions and the development of molecular techniques for the identification of individual isolates. For this purpose we sequenced 8 different H. vastatrixisolates using NGS technologies and gathered partial genome assemblies due to the large repetitive content in the coffee rust hybrid genome; 74.4% of the assembled contigs harbor repetitive sequences. A hybrid assembly of 333 Mb was built based on the 8 isolates; this assembly was used for subsequent analyses. Analysis of the conserved gene space showed that the hybrid H. vastatrixgenome, though highly fragmented, had a satisfactory level of completion with 91.94% of core protein-coding orthologous genes present. RNA-Seq from urediniospores was used to guide the de novo annotation of the H. vastatrix gene complement. In total, 14,445 genes organized in 3921 families were uncovered; a considerable proportion of the predicted proteins (73.8%) were homologous to other Pucciniales species genomes. Several gene families related to the fungal lifestyle were identified, particularly 483 predicted secreted proteins that represent candidate effector genes and will provide interesting hints to decipher virulence in the coffee rust fungus. The genome sequence of Hva will serve as a template to understand the molecular mechanisms used by this fungus to attack the coffee plant, to study the diversity of this species and for the development of molecular markers to distinguish races/isolates.
Plant pathogens cause severe losses to crop plants and threaten global food production. One striking example is the wheat stem rust fungus, Puccinia graminis f. sp. tritici, which can rapidly evolve new virulent pathotypes in response to resistant host lines. Like several other filamentous fungal and oomycete plant pathogens, its genome features expanded gene families that have been implicated in host-pathogen interactions, possibly encoding effector proteins that interact directly with target host defense proteins. Previous efforts to understand virulence largely relied on the prediction of secreted, small and cysteine-rich proteins as candidate effectors and thus delivered an overwhelming number of candidates. Here, we implement an alternative analysis strategy that uses the signal of adaptive evolution as a line of evidence for effector function, combined with comparative information and expression data. We demonstrate that in planta up-regulated genes that are rapidly evolving are found almost exclusively in pathogen-associated gene families, affirming the impact of host-pathogen co-evolution on genome structure and the adaptive diversification of specialized gene families. In particular, we predict 42 effector candidates that are conserved only across pathogens, induced during infection and rapidly evolving. One of our top candidates has recently been shown to induce genotype-specific hypersensitive cell death in wheat. This shows that comparative genomics incorporating the evolutionary signal of adaptation is powerful for predicting effector candidates for laboratory verification. Our system can be applied to a wide range of pathogens and will give insight into host-pathogen dynamics, ultimately leading to progress in strategies for disease control.
Transposable elements (TEs) are ubiquitous inhabitants of eukaryotic genomes and their proliferation and dispersal shape genome architectures and diversity. Nevertheless, TE dynamics are often explored for one species at a time and are rarely considered in ecological contexts. Recent work with plant pathogens suggests a link between symbiosis and TE abundance. The genomes of pathogenic fungi appear to house an increased abundance of TEs, and TEs are frequently associated with the genes involved in symbiosis. To investigate whether this pattern is general, and relevant to mutualistic plant-fungal symbioses, we sequenced the genomes of related asymbiotic (AS) and ectomycorrhizal (ECM) Amanita fungi. Using methods developed to interrogate both assembled and unassembled sequences, we characterized and quantified TEs across three AS and three ECM species, including the AS outgroupVolvariella volvacea. The ECM genomes are characterized by abundant numbers of TEs, an especially prominent feature of unassembled sequencing libraries. Increased TE activity in ECM species is also supported by phylogenetic analysis of the three most abundant TE superfamilies; phylogenies revealed many radiations within contemporary ECM species. However, the AS species Amanita thiersii also houses extensive amplifications of elements, highlighting the influence of additional evolutionary parameters on TE abundance. Our analyses provide further evidence for a link between symbiotic associations among plants and fungi, and increased TE activity, while highlighting the importance individual species’ natural histories may have in shaping genome architecture.
The basidiomycete smut fungus Ustilago hordei was previously shown to comprise isolates that are avirulent on various barley host cultivars. Through genetic crosses we had revealed that a dominant avirulence locus UhAvr1 which triggers immunity in barley cultivar Hannchen harboring resistance gene Ruh1, resided within an 80-kb region. DNA sequence analysis of this genetically delimited region uncovered the presence of 7 candidate secreted effector proteins. Sequence comparison of their coding sequences among virulent and avirulent parental and field isolates could not distinguish UhAvr1 candidates. Systematic deletion and complementation analyses revealed that UhAvr1 is UHOR_10022 which codes for a small effector protein of 171 amino acids with a predicted 19 amino acid signal peptide. Virulence in the parental isolate is caused by the insertion of a fragment of 5.5 kb with similarity to a common U. hordei transposable element (TE), interrupting the promoter of UhAvr1 and thereby changing expression and hence recognition of UhAVR1p. This rearrangement is likely caused by activities of TEs and variation is seen among isolates. Using GFP-chimeric constructs we show that UhAvr1 is induced only in mated dikaryotic hyphae upon sensing and infecting barley coleoptile cells. When infecting Hannchen, UhAVR1p causes local callose deposition and the production of reactive oxygen species and necrosis indicative of the immune response. UhAvr1 does not contribute significantly to overall virulence. UhAvr1 is located in a cluster of ten effectors with several paralogs and over 50% of TEs. This cluster is syntenous with clusters in closely-related U. maydis and Sporisorium reilianum. In these corn-infecting species, these clusters harbor however more and further diversified homologous effector families but very few TEs. This increased variability may have resulted from past selection pressure by resistance genes since U. maydis is not known to trigger immunity in its corn host.
The 12th European Conference on Fungal Genetics (ECFG12) took place in March 2014. Every 2 years a European country welcomes this meeting, which is held in coordination with the Fungal Genetics Conferences that take place every 2 years in Asilomar (USA). This year over 700 participants from 40 countries gathered in Seville (Spain) to exchange ideas on the central theme of fungal genetics and general fungal biology including molecular and cell biology, genomics, evolution and biotechnology. The confer- ence included plenary sessions in honor of three prominent fungal geneticists (Charles Yanofsky, John Clutterbuck and Claudio Sccazocchio), concurrent sessions such as the tremendous ‘Fungal genomes: now what?’, and six satellite meetings including the 4th Mycorrhizal Genomics Initiative Workshop (MGIW4). In the latter meeting, coordinated by Francis Martin (INRA, Nancy, France), approx. 30 junior and senior scientists discussed progress made on exploring the genome diversity of mycorrhizal fungi and debated future directions on how to use the current data sets to bridge mycorrhizal genomics, metagenomics and forest ecology. In this meeting report, we focus on the engaging discussions surrounding fungal genomes and their utilization.
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