Fungi occupy a myriad of niches. They can be free-living (indifferent) as saprophytes recycling nutrients in the natural environment and/or have a range of relationships (affectionate and deceitful) with insect, animal, or plant hosts. Interactions with plants can be a continuum and range from obligate biotrophy where fungi cannot be cultured outside living hosts to necrotrophy where fungi kill and live on released nutrients. Biotrophic fungi need to avoid or suppress defence responses. They include symbionts, which confer a benefit to the host, and pathogens, which can cause devastating diseases such as stem rust, which threatens production of wheat worldwide . Mycorrhizae colonise roots of >80% of land plants and are symbiotic, increasing nitrogen and phosphorus uptake from the soil, while feeding on sugars from the host photosynthate. Secreted proteins are on the front line of host–fungal interactions, and a particular class, effectors, is a hot topic. Here, we examine a range of fungi and consider their complement of secreted proteins (secretome) and roles of effectors in fungal lifestyles.
Background - The plant-pathogenic fungus Fusarium oxysporum f.sp.lycopersici (Fol) has accessory, lineage-specific (LS) chromosomes that can be transferred horizontally between strains. A single LS chromosome in the Fol4287 reference strain harbors all known Fol effector genes. Transfer of this pathogenicity chromosome confers virulence to a previously non-pathogenic recipient strain. We hypothesize that expression and evolution of effector genes is influenced by their genomic context.
Results - To gain a better understanding of the genomic context of the effector genes, we manually curated the annotated genes on the pathogenicity chromosome and identified and classified transposable elements. Both retro- and DNA transposons are present with no particular overrepresented class. Retrotransposons appear evenly distributed over the chromosome, while DNA transposons tend to concentrate in large chromosomal subregions. In general, genes on the pathogenicity chromosome are dispersed within the repeat landscape. Effector genes are present within subregions enriched for DNA transposons. A miniature Impala (mimp) is always present in their promoters. Although promoter deletion studies of two effector gene loci did not reveal a direct function of the mimp for gene expression, we were able to use proximity to a mimp as a criterion to identify new effector gene candidates. Through xylem sap proteomics we confirmed that several of these candidates encode proteins secreted during plant infection.
Conclusions - Effector genes in Fol reside in characteristic subregions on a pathogenicity chromosome. Their genomic context allowed us to develop a method for the successful identification of novel effector genes. Since our approach is not based on effector gene similarity, but on unique genomic features, it can easily be extended to identify effector genes in Fo strains with different host specificities.
Background - Protein effectors of pathogenicity are instrumental in modulating host immunity and disease resistance. The powdery mildew pathogen of grasses Blumeria graminis causes one of the most important diseases of cereal crops. B. graminis is an obligate biotrophic pathogen and as such has an absolute requirement to suppress or avoid host immunity if it is to survive and cause disease.
Results - Here we characterise a superfamily predicted to be the full complement of Candidates for Secreted Effector Proteins (CSEPs) in the fungal barley powdery mildew parasite B. graminis f.sp. hordei. The 491 genes encoding these proteins constitute over 7% of this pathogen’s annotated genes and most were grouped into 72 families of up to 59 members. They were predominantly expressed in the intracellular feeding structures called haustoria, and proteins specifically associated with the haustoria were identified by large-scale mass spectrometry-based proteomics. There are two major types of effector families: one comprises shorter proteins (100–150 amino acids), with a high relative expression level in the haustoria and evidence of extensive diversifying selection between paralogs; the second type consists of longer proteins (300–400 amino acids), with lower levels of differential expression and evidence of purifying selection between paralogs. An analysis of the predicted protein structures underscores their overall similarity to known fungal effectors, but also highlights unexpected structural affinities to ribonucleases throughout the entire effector super-family. Candidate effector genes belonging to the same family are loosely clustered in the genome and are associated with repetitive DNA derived from retro-transposons.
Conclusions - We employed the full complement of genomic, transcriptomic and proteomic analyses as well as structural prediction methods to identify and characterize the members of the CSEPs superfamily in B. graminis f.sp. hordei. Based on relative intron position and the distribution of CSEPs with a ribonuclease-like domain in the phylogenetic tree we hypothesize that the associated genes originated from an ancestral gene, encoding a secreted ribonuclease, duplicated successively by repetitive DNA-driven processes and diversified during the evolution of the grass and cereal powdery mildew lineage.
Recent studies have suggested that plant genomes have undergone potentially rampant horizontal gene transfer (HGT), especially in the mitochondrial genome. Parasitic plants have provided the strongest evidence of HGT, which appears to be facilitated by the intimate physical association between the parasites and their hosts. A recent phylogenomic study demonstrated that in the holoparasite Rafflesia cantleyi (Rafflesiaceae), whose close relatives possess the world's largest flowers, about 2.1% of nuclear gene transcripts were likely acquired from its obligate host. Here, we used next-generation sequencing to obtain the 38 protein-coding and ribosomal RNA genes common to the mitochondrial genomes of angiosperms from R. cantleyi and five additional species, including two of its closest relatives and two host species. Strikingly, our phylogenetic analyses conservatively indicate that 24%–41% of these gene sequences show evidence of HGT in Rafflesiaceae, depending on the species. Most of these transgenic sequences possess intact reading frames and are actively transcribed, indicating that they are potentially functional. Additionally, some of these transgenes maintain synteny with their donor and recipient lineages, suggesting that native genes have likely been displaced via homologous recombination. Our study is the first to comprehensively assess the magnitude of HGT in plants involving a genome (i.e., mitochondria) and a species interaction (i.e., parasitism) where it has been hypothesized to be potentially rampant. Our results establish for the first time that, although the magnitude of HGT involving nuclear genes is appreciable in these parasitic plants, HGT involving mitochondrial genes is substantially higher. This may represent a more general pattern for other parasitic plant clades and perhaps more broadly for angiosperms.
Ash dieback is a devastating fungal disease of ash trees that has swept across Europe and recently reached the UK. This emergent pathogen has received little study in the past and its effect threatens to overwhelm the ash populations. In response to this we have produced some initial genomics datasets and taken the unusual step of releasing them to the scientific for analysis without first performing our own. In this manner we hope to 'crowdsource' analyses and bring the expertise of the community to bear on this problem as quickly as possible. Our data has been released through our website at oadb.tsl.ac.uk and a public GitHub repository.
Pyrenophora tritici-repentis is a necrotrophic fungus causal to the disease tan spot of wheat, whose contribution to crop loss has increased significantly during the last few decades. Pathogenicity by this fungus is attributed to the production of host-selective toxins (HST), which are recognized by their host in a genotype-specific manner. To better understand the mechanisms that have led to the increase in disease incidence related to this pathogen, we sequenced the genomes of three P. tritici-repentis isolates. A pathogenic isolate that produces two known HSTs was used to assemble a reference nuclear genome of approximately 40 Mb composed of 11 chromosomes that encode 12,141 predicted genes. Comparison of the reference genome with those of a pathogenic isolate that produces a third HST, and a nonpathogenic isolate, showed the nonpathogen genome to be more diverged than those of the two pathogens. Examination of gene-coding regions has provided candidate pathogen-specific proteins and revealed gene families that may play a role in a necrotrophic lifestyle. Analysis of transposable elements suggests that their presence in the genome of pathogenic isolates contributes to the creation of novel genes, effector diversification, possible horizontal gene transfer events, identified copy number variation, and the first example of transduplication by DNA transposable elements in fungi. Overall, comparative analysis of these genomes provides evidence that pathogenicity in this species arose through an influx of transposable elements, which created a genetically flexible landscape that can easily respond to environmental changes.
Hemibiotrophic fungal plant pathogens represent a group of agronomically significant disease-causing agents that grow first on living tissue and then cause host death in later, necrotrophic growth. Among these, Colletotrichum spp. are devastating pathogens of many crops. Identifying expanded classes of genes in the genomes of phytopathogenic Colletotrichum, especially those associated with specific stages of hemibiotrophy, can provide insights on how these pathogens infect a large number of hosts.The genomes of Colletotrichum orbiculare, which infects cucurbits and Nicotiana benthamiana, and C. gloeosporioides, which infects a wide range of crops, were sequenced and analyzed, focusing on features with potential roles in pathogenicity. Regulation ofC. orbiculare gene expression was investigated during infection of N. benthamiana using a custom microarray.Genes expanded in both genomes compared to other fungi included sequences encoding small, secreted proteins (SSPs), secondary metabolite synthesis genes, proteases and carbohydrate-degrading enzymes. Many SSP and secondary metabolite synthesis genes were upregulated during initial stages of host colonization, whereas the necrotrophic stage of growth is characterized by upregulation of sequences encoding degradative enzymes.Hemibiotrophy in C. orbiculare is characterized by distinct stage-specific gene expression profiles of expanded classes of potential pathogenicity genes.
For a comprehensive survey of the structure and dynamics of the Dutch Phytophthora infestans population, 652 P. infestans isolates were collected from commercial potato fields in the Netherlands during the 10-year period 2000–2009. Genotyping was performed using 12 highly informative microsatellite markers and mitochondrial haplotypes. In addition, for each isolate, the mating type was determined. STRUCTURE analysis grouped the 322 identified genotypes in three clusters. Cluster 1 consists of a single clonal lineage NL-001, known as “Blue_13”; all isolates in this cluster have the A2 mating type and the Ia mitochondrial haplotype. Clusters 2 and 3 display a more elaborate substructure containing many unique genotypes. In Cluster 3, several distinct clonal lineages were also identified. This survey witnesses that the Dutch population underwent dramatic changes in the 10 years under study. The most notable change was the emergence and spread of A2 mating type strain NL-001 (or “Blue_13”). The results emphasize the importance of the sexual cycle in generating genetic diversity and the importance of the asexual cycle as the propagation and dispersal mechanism for successful genotypes. Isolates were also screened for absence of the Avrblb1/ipiO class I gene, which is indicative for virulence on Rpi-blb1. This is also the first report of Rpi-blb1 breakers in the Netherlands. Superimposing the virulence screening on the SSR genetic backbone indicates that lack the Avrblb1/ipiO class I gene only occurred in sexual progeny. So far, the asexual spread of the virulent isolates identified has been limited.
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We sequenced and compared the genomes of the Dothideomycete fungal plant pathogens Cladosporium fulvum (Cfu) (syn. Passalora fulva) and Dothistroma septosporum (Dse) that are closely related phylogenetically, but have different lifestyles and hosts. Although both fungi grow extracellularly in close contact with host mesophyll cells, Cfu is a biotroph infecting tomato, while Dse is a hemibiotroph infecting pine. The genomes of these fungi have a similar set of genes (70% of gene content in both genomes are homologs), but differ significantly in size (Cfu >61.1-Mb; Dse 31.2-Mb), which is mainly due to the difference in repeat content (47.2% in Cfu versus 3.2% in Dse). Recent adaptation to different lifestyles and hosts is suggested by diverged sets of genes. Cfu contains an α-tomatinase gene that we predict might be required for detoxification of tomatine, while this gene is absent in Dse. Many genes encoding secreted proteins are unique to each species and the repeat-rich areas in Cfu are enriched for these species-specific genes. In contrast, conserved genes suggest common host ancestry. Homologs of Cfu effector genes, including Ecp2 and Avr4, are present in Dse and induce a Cf-Ecp2- and Cf-4-mediated hypersensitive response, respectively. Strikingly, genes involved in production of the toxin dothistromin, a likely virulence factor for Dse, are conserved in Cfu, but their expression differs markedly with essentially no expression by Cfu in planta. Likewise, Cfu has a carbohydrate-degrading enzyme catalog that is more similar to that of necrotrophs or hemibiotrophs and a larger pectinolytic gene arsenal than Dse, but many of these genes are not expressed in planta or are pseudogenized. Overall, comparison of their genomes suggests that these closely related plant pathogens had a common ancestral host but since adapted to different hosts and lifestyles by a combination of differentiated gene content, pseudogenization, and gene regulation.
Horizontal gene transfer has been postulated to occur between crops to co-occurring parasitic plants, but empirical evidence has been lacking. We present evidence that an HGT event moved a nuclear monocot gene into the genome of the eudicot parasite witchweed (Striga hermonthica), which infects many grass species in Africa. Analysis of expressed sequence tags revealed that the genome of S. hermonthica contains a nuclear gene that is widely conserved among grass species but is not found in other eudicots. Phylogenetically, this gene clusters with sorghum genes, the monocot host of the parasitic weed, suggesting that nuclear genes can be captured by parasitic weeds in nature.
Comparative genomics of closely related pathogens that differ in host range can provide insights into mechanisms of host-pathogen interactions and host adaptation. Furthermore, sequencing of multiple strains with the same host range reveals information concerning pathogen diversity and the molecular basis of virulence. Here we present a comparative analysis of draft genome sequences for four strains of Pseudomonas cannabina pathovaralisalensis (Pcal), which is pathogenic on a range of monocotyledonous and dicotyledonous plants. These draft genome sequences provide a foundation for understanding host range evolution across the monocot-dicot divide. Like other phytopathogenic pseudomonads, Pcalstrains harboured a hrp/hrc gene cluster that codes for a type III secretion system. Phylogenetic analysis based on the hrp/hrc cluster genes/proteins, suggests localized recombination and functional divergence within the hrp/hrc cluster. Despite significant conservation of overall genetic content across Pcal genomes, comparison of type III effector repertoires reinforced previous molecular data suggesting the existence of two distinct lineages within this pathovar. Furthermore, all Pcal strains analyzed harbored two distinct genomic islands predicted to code for type VI secretion systems (T6SSs). While one of these systems was orthologous to known P. syringae T6SSs, the other more closely resembled a T6SS found within P. aeruginosa. In summary, our study provides a foundation to unravel Pcal adaptation to both monocot and dicot hosts and provides genetic insights into the mechanisms underlying pathogenicity.
Phytophthora species secrete a large array of effectors during infection of their host plants. The Crinkler (CRN) gene family encodes a ubiquitous but understudied class of effectors with possible but as of yet unknown roles in infection. To appreciate CRN effector function inPhytophthora, we devised a simple Crn gene identification and annotation pipeline to improve effector prediction rates. We predicted 84 full-length CRN coding genes and assessed CRN effector domain diversity in sequenced Oomycete genomes. These analyses revealed evidence of CRN domain innovation in Phytophthora and expansion in the Peronosporales. We performed gene expression analyses to validate and define two classes of CRN effectors, each possibly contributing to infection at different stages. CRN localisation studies revealed that P. capsici CRN effector domains target the nucleus and accumulate in specific sub-nuclear compartments. Phenotypic analyses showed that few CRN domains induce necrosis when expressed in planta and that one cell death inducing effector, enhances P. capsicivirulence on Nicotiana benthamiana. These results suggest that the CRN protein family form an important class of intracellular effectors that target the host nucleus during infection. These results combined with domain expansion in hemi-biotrophic and necrotrophic pathogens, suggests specific contributions to pathogen lifestyles. This work will bolster CRN identification efforts in other sequenced oomycete species and set the stage for future functional studies towards understanding CRN effector functions.
The fungal family Clavicipitaceae includes plant symbionts and parasites that produce several psychoactive and bioprotective alkaloids. The family includes grass symbionts in the epichloae clade (Epichloë and Neotyphodium species), which are extraordinarily diverse both in their host interactions and in their alkaloid profiles. Epichloae produce alkaloids of four distinct classes, all of which deter insects, and some—including the infamous ergot alkaloids—have potent effects on mammals. The exceptional chemotypic diversity of the epichloae may relate to their broad range of host interactions, whereby some are pathogenic and contagious, others are mutualistic and vertically transmitted (seed-borne), and still others vary in pathogenic or mutualistic behavior. We profiled the alkaloids and sequenced the genomes of 10 epichloae, three ergot fungi (Claviceps species), a morning-glory symbiont (Periglandula ipomoeae), and a bamboo pathogen (Aciculosporium take), and compared the gene clusters for four classes of alkaloids. Results indicated a strong tendency for alkaloid loci to have conserved cores that specify the skeleton structures and peripheral genes that determine chemical variations that are known to affect their pharmacological specificities. Generally, gene locations in cluster peripheries positioned them near to transposon-derived, AT-rich repeat blocks, which were probably involved in gene losses, duplications, and neofunctionalizations. The alkaloid loci in the epichloae had unusual structures riddled with large, complex, and dynamic repeat blocks. This feature was not reflective of overall differences in repeat contents in the genomes, nor was it characteristic of most other specialized metabolism loci. The organization and dynamics of alkaloid loci and abundant repeat blocks in the epichloae suggested that these fungi are under selection for alkaloid diversification. We suggest that such selection is related to the variable life histories of the epichloae, their protective roles as symbionts, and their associations with the highly speciose and ecologically diverse cool-season grasses.
Phytopathogenic fungi frequently contain dispensable chromosomes, some of which contribute to host range or pathogenicity. In Leptosphaeria maculans, the stem canker agent of oilseed rape (Brassica napus), the minichromosome was previously suggested to be dispensable, without evidence for any role in pathogenicity.
Using genetic and genomic approaches, we investigated the inheritance and molecular determinant of an L. maculans–Brassica rapa incompatible interaction.
Single gene control of the resistance was found, while all markers located on the L. maculans minichromosome, absent in the virulent parental isolate, co-segregated with the avirulent phenotype. Only one candidate avirulence gene was identified on the minichromosome, validated by complementation experiments and termed AvrLm11. The minichromosome was frequently lost following meiosis, but the frequency of isolates lacking it remained stable in field populations sampled at a 10-yr time interval, despite a yearly sexual stage in the L. maculans life cycle.
This work led to the cloning of a new ‘lost in the middle of nowhere’ avirulence gene of L. maculans, interacting with a B. rapa resistance gene termed Rlm11 and introgressed into B. napus. It demonstrated the dispensability of the L. maculans minichromosome and suggested that its loss generates a fitness deficit.
Rhizoctonia solani is a major fungal pathogen of rice (Oryza sativa L.) that causes great yield losses in all rice-growing regions of the world. Here we report the draft genome sequence of the rice sheath blight disease pathogen, R. solani AG1 IA, assembled using next-generation Illumina Genome Analyser sequencing technologies. The genome encodes a large and diverse set of secreted proteins, enzymes of primary and secondary metabolism, carbohydrate-active enzymes, and transporters, which probably reflect an exclusive necrotrophic lifestyle. We find few repetitive elements, a closer relationship to Agaricomycotina among Basidiomycetes, and expand protein domains and families. Among the 25 candidate pathogen effectors identified according to their functionality and evolution, we validate 3 that trigger crop defence responses; hence we reveal the exclusive expression patterns of the pathogenic determinants during host infection.
An annotated high-quality draft genome sequence for Xanthomonas campestris pv. campestris race 1 strain Xca5 (originally described as X. campestris pv. armoraciae), the causal agent of black rot on Brassicaceae plants, has been determined. This genome sequence is a valuable resource for comparative genomics within the campestris pathovar.
Plant infection by oomycete pathogens is a complex process. It requires precise expression of a plethora of genes in the pathogen that contribute to a successful interaction with the host. Whereas much effort has been made to uncover the molecular systems underlying this infection process, mechanisms of transcriptional regulation of the genes involved remain largely unknown. We performed the first systematic de-novo DNA motif discovery analysis inPhytophthora. To this end, we utilized the genome sequence of the late blight pathogenPhytophthora infestans and two related Phytophthora species (P. ramorum and P. sojae), as well as genome-wide in planta gene expression data to systematically predict 19 conserved DNA motifs. This catalog describes common eukaryotic promoter elements whose functionality is supported by the presence of orthologs of known general transcription factors. Together with strong functional enrichment of the common promoter elements towards effector genes involved in pathogenicity, we obtained a new and expanded picture of the promoter structure in P. infestans. More intriguingly, we identified specific DNA motifs that are either highly abundant or whose presence is significantly correlated with gene expression levels during infection. Several of these motifs are observed upstream of genes encoding transporters, RXLR effectors, but also transcriptional regulators. Motifs that are observed upstream of known pathogenicity-related genes are potentially important binding sites for transcription factors. Our analyses add substantial knowledge to the as of yet virtually unexplored question regarding general and specific gene regulation in this important class of pathogens. We propose hypotheses on the effects of cis-regulatory motifs on the gene regulation of pathogenicity-related genes and pinpoint motifs that are prime targets for further experimental validation.
Phytophthora infestans is the oomycete pathogen responsible for the devastating late blight disease on potato and tomato. There is presently an intense research focus on the role(s) of effectors in promoting late blight disease development. However, little is known about how they are regulated, or how diversity in their expression may be generated among different isolates. Here we present data from investigation of RNA silencing processes, characterized by non-coding small RNA molecules (sRNA) of 19–40 nt. From deep sequencing of sRNAs we have identified sRNAs matching numerous RxLR and Crinkler (CRN) effector protein genes in two isolates differing in pathogenicity. Effector gene-derived sRNAs were present in both isolates, but exhibited marked differences in abundance, especially for CRN effectors. Small RNAs in P. infestans grouped into three clear size classes of 21, 25/26 and 32 nt. Small RNAs from all size classes mapped to RxLR effector genes, but notably 21 nt sRNAs were the predominant size class mapping to CRN effector genes. Some effector genes, such as PiAvr3a, to which sRNAs were found, also exhibited differences in transcript accumulation between the two isolates. The P. infestans genome is rich in transposable elements, and the majority of sRNAs of all size classes mapped to these sequences, predominantly to long terminal repeat (LTR) retrotransposons. RNA silencing of Dicer and Argonaute genes provided evidence that generation of 21 nt sRNAs is Dicer-dependent, while accumulation of longer sRNAs was impacted by silencing of Argonaute genes. Additionally, we identified six microRNA (miRNA) candidates from our sequencing data, their precursor sequences from the genome sequence, and target mRNAs. These miRNA candidates have features characteristic of both plant and metazoan miRNAs.
Host specificity of plant pathogens can be dictated by genes that enable pathogens to circumvent host defenses. Upon recognition of a pathogen, plants initiate defense responses that can include the production of antimicrobial compounds such as phytoalexins. The pea pathogen Nectria haematococca mating population VI (MPVI) is a filamentous ascomycete that contains a cluster of genes known as the pea pathogenicity (PEP) cluster in which the pisatin demethylase (PDA) gene resides. The PDA gene product is responsible for the detoxification of the phytoalexin pisatin, which is produced by the pea plant (Pisum sativum L.). This detoxification activity allows the pathogen to evade the phytoalexin defense mechanism. It has been proposed that the evolution of PDA and the PEP cluster reflects horizontal gene transfer (HGT). Previous observations consistent with this hypothesis include the location of the PEP cluster and PDA gene on a dispensable portion of the genome (a supernumerary chromosome), a phylogenetically discontinuous distribution of the cluster among closely related species, and a bias in G + C content and codon usage compared to other regions of the genome. In this study we compared the phylogenetic history of PDA, beta-tubulin, and translation elongation factor 1-alpha in three closely related fungi (Nectria haematococca, Fusarium oxysporum, and Neocosmospora species) to formally evaluate hypotheses regarding the origin and evolution of PDA. Our results, coupled with previous work, robustly demonstrate discordance between the gene genealogy of PDA and the organismal phylogeny of these species, and illustrate how HGT of pathogenicity genes can contribute to the expansion of host specificity in plant-pathogenic fungi.
The class Dothideomycetes is one of the largest groups of fungi with a high level of ecological diversity including many plant pathogens infecting a broad range of hosts. Here, we compare genome features of 18 members of this class, including 6 necrotrophs, 9 (hemi)biotrophs and 3 saprotrophs, to analyze genome structure, evolution, and the diverse strategies of pathogenesis. The Dothideomycetes most likely evolved from a common ancestor more than 280 million years ago. The 18 genome sequences differ dramatically in size due to variation in repetitive content, but show much less variation in number of (core) genes. Gene order appears to have been rearranged mostly within chromosomal boundaries by multiple inversions, in extant genomes frequently demarcated by adjacent simple repeats. Several Dothideomycetes contain one or more gene-poor, transposable element (TE)-rich putatively dispensable chromosomes of unknown function. The 18 Dothideomycetes offer an extensive catalogue of genes involved in cellulose degradation, proteolysis, secondary metabolism, and cysteine-rich small secreted proteins. Ancestors of the two major orders of plant pathogens in the Dothideomycetes, the Capnodiales and Pleosporales, may have had different modes of pathogenesis, with the former having fewer of these genes than the latter. Many of these genes are enriched in proximity to transposable elements, suggesting faster evolution because of the effects of repeat induced point (RIP) mutations. A syntenic block of genes, including oxidoreductases, is conserved in most Dothideomycetes and upregulated during infection in L. maculans, suggesting a possible function in response to oxidative stress.
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