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.
Oomycetes are filamentous organisms that cause notorious diseases, several of which have a high economic impact. Well known is Phytophthora infestans, the causal agent of potato late blight. Previously, in silico analyses of the genome and transcriptome of P. infestans resulted in the annotation of a large number of genes encoding proteins with an N-terminal signal peptide. This set is collectively referred to as the secretome and comprises proteins involved in, for example, cell wall growth and modification, proteolytic processes and the promotion of successful invasion of plant cells. So far, proteomic profiling in oomycetes was primarily focussed on subcellular, intracellular or cell wall fractions; the extracellular proteome has not been studied systematically. Here we present the first comprehensive characterization of the in vivo secretome and extracellular proteome of P. infestans. We have used mass spectrometry to analyse P. infestans proteins present in seven different growth media with mycelial cultures and this resulted in the consistent identification of over two hundred proteins. Gene ontology classification pinpointed proteins involved in cell wall modifications, pathogenesis, defense responses and proteolytic processes. Moreover, we found members of the RXLR and CRN effector families as well as several proteins lacking an obvious signal peptide. The latter were confirmed to be bona fide extracellular proteins and this suggests that, similar to other organisms, oomycetes exploit non-conventional secretion mechanisms to transfer certain proteins to the extracellular environment.
Both type III effector proteins and non-ribosomal peptide toxins play important roles for Pseudomonas syringae pathogenicity in host plants, but whether and how these pathways interact to promote infection remains unclear. Genomic evidence from one clade of P. syringae suggests a tradeoff between the total number of type III effector proteins and presence of syringomycin, syringopeptin, and syringolin A toxins. Here we report the complete genome sequence from P. syringae CC1557, which contains the lowest number of known type III effectors to date and has also acquired genes similar to sequences encoding syringomycin pathways from other strains. We demonstrate that this strain is pathogenic on Nicotiana benthamiana and that both the type III secretion system and a new type III effector family, hopBJ1, contribute to pathogenicity. We further demonstrate that activity of HopBJ1 is dependent on residues structurally similar to the catalytic site of E. coli CNF1 toxin. Taken together, our results provide additional support for a negative correlation between type III effector repertoires and the potential to produce syringomycin-like toxins while also highlighting how genomic synteny and bioinformatics can be used to identify and characterize novel virulence proteins.
Focus Issue Editors:Gwyn Beattie, Darrell Desveaux, and Seogchan Kang
Rapid advances in genomics have allowed us to explore the biology, ecology, evolution, and diversity of plant-associated microbes and how microbial processes are interconnected with the evolution and function of plants.
Genomic-level studies offer ever-expanding opportunities to understand the functional potential of microbes. Our current knowledge is growing rapidly. But considering the vast diversity of microbial species in nature, that knowledge represents the very tip of the proverbial iceberg.
Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions (MPMI) has played a leading role in disseminating new insights into plant-microbe interactions and promoting new approaches. Through a new MPMI focus issue, titled “The Good, the Bad, and the Unknown: Genomics-Enabled Discovery of Plant-Associated Microbial Processes and Diversity,” MPMI will continue this role by highlighting work that is advancing genomics-enabled discovery of plant-associated microbial processes and diversity.
Submitted papers will be reviewed by an outstanding editorial board and edited by a caring, professional editorial staff dedicated to publishing at the highest standard of quality. MPMI Editor-in-Chief Jane Glazebrook and Focus Issue editors Gwyn Beattie, Darrell Desveaux, and Seogchan Kang encourage authors to submit research and perspective articles on the following topics:
Functional genomics of individual organisms
Evolutionary and population genomics
Genomic analysis and visualization tools
If you are working on research of this type, submit your papers to MPMI no later than September 30, 2014, and note that you would like to be considered for the Genomics Focus Issue by selecting “Focus Issue” as the "Manuscript Type."
All papers must present new biological knowledge. Papers that are purely descriptive will not be considered.
Previous phylogenies, built using a subset of genomic loci, split Pseudomonas syringae pv. pisi into two well-supported clades and implied convergence in host range for these lineages. The analysis of phenotypic and genotypic data within the context of this phylogenetic relationship implied further convergence at the level of virulence gene loss and acquisition. We generate draft genome assemblies for two additional P. syringae strains, isolated from diseased pea plants, and demonstrate incongruence between phylogenies created from a subset of the data compared with the whole genomes. Our whole-genome analysis demonstrates that strains classified as pv. pisi actually form a coherent monophyletic clade, so that apparent convergence is actually the product of shared ancestry. We use this example to urge caution when making evolutionary inferences across closely related strains of P. syringae.
Ash dieback is a fungal disease of ash trees caused by Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus that has swept across Europe in the last two decades and is a significant threat to the ash population. This emergent pathogen has been relatively poorly studied and little is known about its genetic make-up. In response to the arrival of this dangerous pathogen in the UK we took the unusual step of providing an open access database and initial sequence datasets to the scientific community for analysis prior to performing an analysis of our own. Our goal was to crowdsource genomic and other analyses and create a community analysing this pathogen. In this report on the evolution of the community and data and analysis obtained in the first year of this activity, we describe the nature and the volume of the contributions and reveal some preliminary insights into the genome and biology of H. pseudoalbidus that emerged. In particular our nascent community generated a first-pass genome assembly containing abundant collapsed AT-rich repeats indicating a typically complex genome structure. Our open science and crowdsourcing effort has brought a wealth of new knowledge about this emergent pathogen within a short time-frame. Our community endeavour highlights the positive impact that open, collaborative approaches can have on fast, responsive modern science.
Since the dawn of agriculture, plant pathogens and pests have been a scourge of humanity. Yet we have come a long way since the Romans attempted to mitigate the effects of plant disease by worshipping and honoring the god Robigus. Books in the Middle Ages by Islamic and European scholars described various plant diseases and even proposed particular disease management strategies. Surprisingly, the causes of plant diseases remained a matter of debate over a long period. It took Henri-Louis Duhamel du Monceau's elegant demonstration in his 1728 “Explication Physique” paper that a “contagious” fungus was responsible for a saffron crocus disease to usher in an era of documented scientific inquiry. Confusion and debate about the exact nature of the causal agents of plant diseases continued until the 19th century, which not only saw the first detailed analyses of plant pathogens but also provided much-needed insight into the mechanisms of plant disease. An example of this is Anton de Bary's demonstration that a “fungus” is a cause, not a consequence, of plant disease. This coming of age of plant pathology was timely. In the 19th century, severe plant disease epidemics hit Europe and caused economic and social upheaval. These epidemics were not only widely covered in the press but also recognized as serious political issues by governments. Many of the diseases, including late blight of potato, powdery and downy mildew of grapevine, as well as phylloxera, were due to exotic introductions from the Americas and elsewhere. These and subsequent epidemics motivated scientific investigations into crop breeding and plant disease management that developed into modern plant pathology science over the 20th century.
Nowadays, our understanding of plant pathogens and the diseases they cause greatly benefits from molecular genetics and genomics. All aspects of plant pathology, from population biology and epidemiology to mechanistic research, are impacted. The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) first enabled access to plant pathogen DNA sequences from historical specimens deposited in herbaria. Historical records in combination with herbarium specimens have turned out to provide powerful tools for understanding the course of past plant epidemics. Recently, thanks to new developments in DNA sequencing technology, it has become possible to reconstruct the genomes of plant pathogens in herbaria. In this article, we first summarize how whole genome analysis of ancient DNA has been recently used to reconstruct the 19th-century potato-blight epidemic that rapidly spread throughout Europe and triggered the Irish potato famine. We then discuss the exciting prospects offered by the emergence of the discipline of ancient plant pathogen genomics.
Genome architecture often reflects an organism’s lifestyle and can therefore provide insights into gene function, regulation, and adaptation. In several lineages of plant pathogenic fungi and oomycetes, characteristic repeat-rich and gene-sparse regions harbor pathogenicity-related genes such as effectors. In these pathogens, analysis of genome architecture has assisted the mining for novel candidate effector genes and investigations into patterns of gene regulation and evolution at the whole genome level. Here we describe a two-dimensional data binning method in R with a heatmap-style graphical output to facilitate analysis and visualization of whole genome architecture. The method is flexible, combining whole genome architecture heatmaps with scatter plots of the genomic environment of selected gene sets. This enables analysis of specific values associated with genes such as gene expression and sequence polymorphisms, according to genome architecture. This method enables the investigation of whole genome architecture and reveals local properties of genomic neighborhoods in a clear and concise manner.
Plant pathogens secrete an arsenal of small secreted proteins (SSPs) acting as effectors that modulate host immunity to facilitate infection. SSP-encoding genes are often located in particular genomic environments and show waves of concerted expression at diverse stages of plant infection. To date, little is known about the regulation of their expression. The genome of the Ascomycete Leptosphaeria maculans comprises alternating gene-rich GC-isochores and gene-poor AT-isochores. The AT-isochores harbor mosaics of transposable elements, encompassing one-third of the genome, and are enriched in putative effector genes that present similar expression patterns, namely no expression or low-level expression during axenic cultures compared to strong induction of expression during primary infection of oilseed rape (Brassica napus). Here, we investigated the involvement of one specific histone modification, histone H3 lysine 9 methylation (H3K9me3), in epigenetic regulation of concerted effector gene expression in L. maculans. For this purpose, we silenced the expression of two key players in heterochromatin assembly and maintenance, HP1 and DIM-5 by RNAi. By using HP1-GFP as a heterochromatin marker, we observed that almost no chromatin condensation is visible in strains in which LmDIM5 was silenced by RNAi. By whole genome oligoarrays we observed overexpression of 369 or 390 genes, respectively, in the silenced-LmHP1 and -LmDIM5 transformants during growth in axenic culture, clearly favouring expression of SSP-encoding genes within AT-isochores. The ectopic integration of four effector genes in GC-isochores led to their overexpression during growth in axenic culture. These data strongly suggest that epigenetic control, mediated by HP1 and DIM-5, represses the expression of at least part of the effector genes located in AT-isochores during growth in axenic culture. Our hypothesis is that changes of lifestyle and a switch toward pathogenesis lift chromatin-mediated repression, allowing a rapid response to new environmental conditions.
The origins of many plant diseases appear to be recent and associated with the rise of domestication, the spread of agriculture or recent global movements of crops. Distinguishing between these possibilities is problematic because of the difficulty of determining rates of molecular evolution over short time frames. Heterochronous approaches using recent and historical samples show that plant viruses exhibit highly variable and often rapid rates of molecular evolution. The accuracy of estimated evolution rates and age of origin can be greatly improved with the inclusion of older molecular data from archaeological material. Here we present the first reconstruction of an archaeological RNA genome, which is of Barley Stripe Mosaic Virus (BSMV) isolated from barley grain ~750 years of age. Phylogenetic analysis of BSMV that includes this genome indicates the divergence of BSMV and its closest relative prior to this time, most likely around 2000 years ago. However, exclusion of the archaeological data results in an apparently much more recent origin of the virus that postdates even the archaeological sample. We conclude that this viral lineage originated in the Near East or North Africa, and spread to North America and East Asia with their hosts along historical trade routes.
Members of the family Trypanosomatidae infect many organisms, including animals, plants and humans. Plant-infecting trypanosomes are grouped under the single genus Phytomonas, failing to reflect the wide biological and pathological diversity of these protists. While somePhytomonas spp. multiply in the latex of plants, or in fruit or seeds without apparent pathogenicity, others colonize the phloem sap and afflict plants of substantial economic value, including the coffee tree, coconut and oil palms. Plant trypanosomes have not been studied extensively at the genome level, a major gap in understanding and controlling pathogenesis. We describe the genome sequences of two plant trypanosomatids, one pathogenic isolate from a Guianan coconut and one non-symptomatic isolate from Euphorbia collected in France. Although these parasites have extremely distinct pathogenic impacts, very few genes are unique to either, with the vast majority of genes shared by both isolates. Significantly, bothPhytomonas spp. genomes consist essentially of single copy genes for the bulk of their metabolic enzymes, whereas other trypanosomatids e.g. Leishmania and Trypanosomapossess multiple paralogous genes or families. Indeed, comparison with other trypanosomatid genomes revealed a highly streamlined genome, encoding for a minimized metabolic system while conserving the major pathways, and with retention of a full complement of endomembrane organelles, but with no evidence for functional complexity. Identification of the metabolic genes of Phytomonas provides opportunities for establishing in vitro culturing of these fastidious parasites and new tools for the control of agricultural plant disease.
Background - Lichen is a classic mutualistic organism and the lichenization is one of the fungal symbioses. The lichen-forming fungus Endocarpon pusillum is living in symbiosis with the green alga Diplosphaera chodatii Bialsuknia as a lichen in the arid regions.
Results - 454 and Illumina technologies were used to sequence the genome of E. pusillum. A total of 9,285 genes were annotated in the 37.5 Mb genome of E. pusillum. Analyses of the genes provided direct molecular evidence for certain natural characteristics, such as homothallic reproduction and drought-tolerance. Comparative genomics analysis indicated that the expansion and contraction of some protein families in the E. pusillum genome reflect the specific relationship with its photosynthetic partner (D. chodatii). Co-culture experiments using the lichen-forming fungus E. pusillum and its algal partner allowed the functional identification of genes involved in the nitrogen and carbon transfer between both symbionts, and three lectins without signal peptide domains were found to be essential for the symbiotic recognition in the lichen; interestingly, the ratio of the biomass of both lichen-forming fungus and its photosynthetic partner and their contact time were found to be important for the interaction between these two symbionts.
Conclusions - The present study lays a genomic analysis of the lichen-forming fungus E. pusillum for demonstrating its general biological features and the traits of the interaction between this fungus and its photosynthetic partner D. chodatii, and will provide research basis for investigating the nature of its drought resistance and symbiosis.
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.
Background - The white mold fungus Sclerotinia sclerotiorum is a devastating necrotrophic plant pathogen with a remarkably broad host range. The interaction of necrotrophs with their hosts is more complex than initially thought, and still poorly understood.
Results - We combined bioinformatics approaches to determine the repertoire of S. sclerotiorum effector candidates and conducted detailed sequence and expression analyses on selected candidates. We identified 486 S. sclerotiorum secreted protein genes expressed in planta, many of which have no predicted enzymatic activity and may be involved in the interaction between the fungus and its hosts. We focused on those showing (i) protein domains and motifs found in known fungal effectors, (ii) signatures of positive selection, (iii) recent gene duplication, or (iv) being S. sclerotiorum-specific. We identified 78 effector candidates based on these properties. We analyzed the expression pattern of 16 representative effector candidate genes on four host plants and revealed diverse expression patterns.
Conclusions - These results reveal diverse predicted functions and expression patterns in the repertoire of S. sclerotiorum effector candidates. They will facilitate the functional analysis of fungal pathogenicity determinants and should prove useful in the search for plant quantitative disease resistance components active against the white mold.
Host specialization by pathogens requires a repertoire of virulence factors and fine-tuned regulation of gene expression. The fungal wheat pathogenZymoseptoria tritici (synonym Mycosphaerella graminicola) is a powerful model system for the discovery of genetic elements that underlie virulence and host specialization. We transcriptionally profiled the early stages of Z. tritici infection of a compatible host (wheat) and a non-compatible host (Brachypodium distachyon). The results revealed infection regulatory programs common to both hosts as well as genes with striking wheat-specific expression, with many of the latter showing sequence signatures of positive selection along the Z. tritici lineage. Genes specifically regulated during infection of wheat populated two large clusters of co-regulated genes that may represent candidate pathogenicity islands. On evolutionarily labile, repeat-rich accessory chromosomes, we identified hundreds of highly expressed genes with signatures of evolutionary constraint and putative biological function. Phylogenetic analyses suggested that gene duplication events on these accessory chromosomes were rare and largely preceded the diversification of Zymoseptoriaspecies. Together, our data highlight the likely relevance for fungal growth and virulence of hundreds of Z. tritici genes, deepening the annotation and functional inference of the genes of this model pathogen.
Rhizoctonia solani is a soil-borne basidiomycete fungus with a necrotrophic lifestyle which is classified into fourteen reproductively incompatible anastomosis groups (AGs). One of these, AG8, is a devastating pathogen causing bare patch of cereals, brassicas and legumes. R. solani is a multinucleate heterokaryon containing significant heterozygosity within a single cell. This complexity posed significant challenges for the assembly of its genome. We present a high quality genome assembly of R. solani AG8 and a manually curated set of 13,964 genes supported by RNA-seq. The AG8 genome assembly used novel methods to produce a haploid representation of its heterokaryotic state. The whole-genomes of AG8, the rice pathogen AG1-IA and the potato pathogen AG3 were observed to be syntenic and co-linear. Genes and functions putatively relevant to pathogenicity were highlighted by comparing AG8 to known pathogenicity genes, orthology databases spanning 197 phytopathogenic taxa and AG1-IA. We also observed SNP-level “hypermutation” of CpG dinucleotides to TpG between AG8 nuclei, with similarities to repeat-induced point mutation (RIP). Interestingly, gene-coding regions were widely affected along with repetitive DNA, which has not been previously observed for RIP in mononuclear fungi of the Pezizomycotina. The rate of heterozygous SNP mutations within this single isolate of AG8 was observed to be higher than SNP mutation rates observed across populations of most fungal species compared. Comparative analyses were combined to predict biological processes relevant to AG8 and 308 proteins with effector-like characteristics, forming a valuable resource for further study of this pathosystem. Predicted effector-like proteins had elevated levels of non-synonymous point mutations relative to synonymous mutations (dN/dS), suggesting that they may be under diversifying selection pressures. In addition, the distant relationship to sequenced necrotrophs of the Ascomycota suggests the R. solani genome sequence may prove to be a useful resource in future comparative analysis of plant pathogens.
Background: The availability of draft crop plant genomes allows the prediction of the full complement of genes that encode NB-LRR resistance gene homologs, enabling a more targeted breeding for disease resistance. Recently, we developed the RenSeq method to reannotate the full NB-LRR gene complement in potato and to identify novel sequences that were not picked up by the automated gene prediction software. Here, we established RenSeq on the reference genome of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) Heinz 1706, using 260 previously identified NB-LRR genes in an updated Solanaceae RenSeq bait library.
Result: Using 250-bp MiSeq reads after RenSeq on genomic DNA of Heinz 1706, we identified 105 novel NB-LRR sequences. Reannotation included the splitting of gene models, combination of partial genes to a longer sequence and closing of assembly gaps. Within the draft S. pimpinellifolium LA1589 genome, RenSeq enabled the annotation of 355 NB-LRR genes. The majority of these are however fragmented, with 5[prime]- and 3[prime]-end located on the edges of separate contigs. Phylogenetic analyses show a high conservation of all NB-LRR classes between Heinz 1706, LA1589 and the potato clone DM, suggesting that all sub-families were already present in the last common ancestor. A phylogenetic comparison to the Arabidopsis thaliana NB-LRR complement verifies the high conservation of the more ancient CCRPW8-type NB-LRRs. Use of RenSeq on cDNA from uninfected and late blight-infected tomato leaves allows the avoidance of sequence analysis of non-expressed paralogues.
Conclusion: RenSeq is a promising method to facilitate analysis of plant resistance gene complements. The reannotated tomato NB-LRR complements, phylogenetic relationships and chromosomal locations provided in this paper will provide breeders and scientists with a useful tool to identify novel disease resistance traits. cDNA RenSeq enables for the first time next-gen sequencing approaches targeted to this very low-expressed gene family without the need for normalization.
Genomes of the plant-pathogenic genus Phytophthora are characterized by small duplicated blocks consisting of two consecutive genes (2HOM blocks) as well as by an elevated abundance of similarly aged gene duplicates. Both properties, in particular the presences of 2HOM blocks, have been attributed to a whole-genome duplication (WGD) at the last common ancestor of Phytophthora. However large intra-species synteny – compelling evidence for a WGD – has not been detected. Here we revisited the WGD hypothesis by deducing the age of 2HOM blocks. Two independent timing methods reveal that the majority of 2HOM blocks arose after divergence of the Phytophthora lineages. In addition, a large proportion of the 2HOM block copies co-localize on the same scaffold. Therefore, the presence of 2HOM blocks does not support a WGD at the last common ancestor of Phytophthora. Thus, genome evolution ofPhytophthora is likely driven by alternative mechanisms, such as bursts of transposon activity.
The grass smuts comprise a speciose group of biotrophic plant parasites, so-called Ustilaginaceae, which are specifically adapted to hosts of sweet grasses, the Poaceae family. Mating takes a central role in their life cycle, as it initiates parasitism by a morphological and physiological transition from saprobic yeast cells to pathogenic filaments. As in other fungi, sexual identity is determined by specific genomic regions encoding allelic variants of a pheromone-receptor (PR) system and heterodimerising transcription factors. Both operate in a biphasic mating process that starts with PR–triggered recognition, directed growth of conjugation hyphae, and plasmogamy of compatible mating partners. So far, studies on the PR system of grass smuts revealed diverse interspecific compatibility and mating type determination. However, many questions concerning the specificity and evolutionary origin of the PR system remain unanswered. Combining comparative genetics and biological approaches, we report on the specificity of the PR system and its genetic diversity in 10 species spanning about 100 million years of mating type evolution. We show that three highly syntenic PR alleles are prevalent among members of the Ustilaginaceae, favouring a triallelic determination as the plesiomorphic characteristic of this group. Furthermore, the analysis of PR loci revealed increased genetic diversity of single PR locus genes compared to genes of flanking regions. Performing interspecies sex tests, we detected a high potential for hybridisation that is directly linked to pheromone signalling as known from intraspecies sex. Although the PR system seems to be optimised for intraspecific compatibility, the observed functional plasticity of the PR system increases the potential for interspecific sex, which might allow the hybrid-based genesis of newly combined host specificities.
Rust fungi cause serious yield reductions on crops, including wheat, barley, soybean, coffee, and represent real threats to global food security. Of these fungi, the flax rust pathogen Melampsora lini has been developed extensively over the past 80 years as a model to understand the molecular mechanisms that underpin pathogenesis. During infection, M. lini secretes virulence effectors to promote disease. The number of these effectors, their function and their degree of conservation across rust fungal species is unknown. To assess this, we sequenced and assembled de novo the genome of M. lini isolate CH5 into 21,130 scaffolds spanning 189 Mbp (scaffold N50 of 31 kbp). Global analysis of the DNA sequence revealed that repetitive elements, primarily retrotransposons, make up at least 45% of the genome. Using ab initio predictions, transcriptome data and homology searches, we identified 16,271 putative protein-coding genes. An analysis pipeline was then implemented to predict the effector complement of M. lini and compare it to that of the poplar rust, wheat stem rust and wheat stripe rust pathogens to identify conserved and species-specific effector candidates. Previous knowledge of four cloned M. lini avirulence effector proteins and two basidiomycete effectors was used to optimise parameters of the effector prediction pipeline. Markov clustering based on sequence similarity was performed to group effector candidates from all four rust pathogens. Clusters containing at least one member from M. lini were further analysed and prioritized based on features including expression in isolated haustoria and infected leaf tissue and conservation across rust species. Herein, we describe 200 of 940 clusters that ranked highest on our priority list, representing 725 flax rust candidate effectors. Our findings on this important model rust species provide insight into how effectors of rust fungi are conserved across species and how they may act to promote infection on their hosts.
The plant pathogen Phytophthora infestans emerged in Europe in 1845, triggering the Irish potato famine and massive European potato crop losses that continued until effective fungicides were widely employed in the 20th century. Today the pathogen is ubiquitous, with more aggressive and virulent strains surfacing in recent decades. Recently, complete P. infestans mitogenome sequences from 19th-century herbarium specimens were shown to belong to a unique lineage (HERB-1) predicted to be rare or extinct in modern times. We report 44 additional P. infestans mitogenomes: four from 19th-century Europe, three from 1950s U.K. and 34 from modern populations across the New World. We use phylogenetic analyses to identify the HERB-1 lineage in modern populations from both Mexico and South America, and to demonstrate distinct mitochondrial haplotypes were present in 19th-century Europe, with this lineage initially diversifying 75 years before the first reports of potato late blight.
All species continuously evolve to adapt to changing environments. The genetic variation that fosters such adaptation is caused by a plethora of mechanisms, including meiotic recombination that generates novel allelic combinations in the progeny of two parental lineages. However, a considerable number of eukaryotic species, including many fungi, do not have an apparent sexual cycle and are consequently thought to be limited in their evolutionary potential. As such organisms are expected to have reduced capability to eliminate deleterious mutations, they are often considered as evolutionary dead ends. However, inspired by recent reports we argue that such organisms can be as persistent as organisms with conventional sexual cycles through the use of other mechanisms, such as genomic rearrangements, to foster adaptation.
Analyses of large-scale population structure of pathogens enable the identification of migration patterns, diversity reservoirs or longevity of populations, the understanding of current evolutionary trajectories and the anticipation of future ones. This is particularly important for long-distance migrating fungal pathogens such as Puccinia striiformis f.sp. tritici (PST), capable of rapid spread to new regions and crop varieties. Although a range of recent PST invasions at continental scales are well documented, the worldwide population structure and the center of origin of the pathogen were still unknown. In this study, we used multilocus microsatellite genotyping to infer worldwide population structure of PST and the origin of new invasions based on 409 isolates representative of distribution of the fungus on six continents. Bayesian and multivariate clustering methods partitioned the set of multilocus genotypes into six distinct genetic groups associated with their geographical origin. Analyses of linkage disequilibrium and genotypic diversity indicated a strong regional heterogeneity in levels of recombination, with clear signatures of recombination in the Himalayan (Nepal and Pakistan) and near-Himalayan regions (China) and a predominant clonal population structure in other regions. The higher genotypic diversity, recombinant population structure and high sexual reproduction ability in the Himalayan and neighboring regions suggests this area as the putative center of origin of PST. We used clustering methods and approximate Bayesian computation (ABC) to compare different competing scenarios describing ancestral relationship among ancestral populations and more recently founded populations. Our analyses confirmed the Middle East-East Africa as the most likely source of newly spreading, high-temperature-adapted strains; Europe as the source of South American, North American and Australian populations; and Mediterranean-Central Asian populations as the origin of South African populations. Although most geographic populations are not markedly affected by recent dispersal events, this study emphasizes the influence of human activities on recent long-distance spread of the pathogen.