Category Archives: Ustilago

2012 Fungal Genomes: a review of mycological genomic accomplishments

2012 was certainly a banner year in genome sequence production and publications. The cost of generating the data keeps dropping and the automation for assembly and annotation continues to improve making it possible for a range of groups to publish genomes.

I made a NCBI PubMed Collection of these here Fungal Genomes 2012

Some notable fungal genome publications include

There were also several new insights into the evolution of wood decay fungi derived from new genomes of basidiomycete fungi. This includes

(Now I might have missed a few in my attempt to get this done before holidays overtake me – if so, please post comments or tweets and I’ll be sure to amend the list on pubmed and here.)

A new trend for fungal genome papers can be seen now in the Genome Announcements of Eukaryotic Cell which aim to get the genome data out quickly with a citateable reference. These are short descriptions which I expect will become more popular ways to insure data made public can also be cited. I only counted about 5 published in 2012 but I expect to see a lot more of these in the 2013 either at EC or other journals. I’m sure there will still be some tension between providers making data public as soon as possible and the sponsoring authors’ desire to have first crack at analyzing and publish interpretations and comparison of the genome(s). The bacterial community has been doing this for Genome Reports in the SIGS journal and the Journal of Bacteriology so will see what happens as these small eukaryotic genomes become even easier to produce.

I look forward to exciting year with more of the 1000 Fungal genomes and other JGI  projects start to roll out more genomes.  I also predict there will be many more resequencing datasets published as functional and population genomics. It will also probably be a countdown for what are the last Sanger sequenced genomes and how the many flavors of next generation sequencing will be optimized for generation.  I am hopeful work on automation of annotation and comparisons will be even easier for more people to use and that we start to provide a shared repository of gene predictions.  I’ve just launched the latter and look forward to engaging more people to contribute to this.

I’ll have the truffles and huitlacoche

Black TruffleA couple of papers should have captured your attention lately in the realm of fungal genomics.

One is the publication of the genome of the black truffle Tuber melanosporum. This appears as an advanced publication at Nature (OA by virtue of Nature’s agreement on genome papers) along with a NYT writeup and is a tasty exploration of the genome of an ascomycete ectomycorrhizal (ECM) fungus. There are several gems in there including the differences in transposable element content, content of gene families related to carbohydrate metabolism. This genome helps open the doorway for exploring the several independent origins of ECM in both ascomycete and basidiomycete fungi.

I’ll also point out there is some work on the analysis of mating type locus found in this genome has applied aspects suggesting that inoculation of roots with both mating types may increase truffle yields in truffle farms. Evidence for sexual reproduction is also discovered from this genome analysis based on the sexual cycle genes present and the structure of the MAT locus.  Much like what was revealed in the genome analysis of the previously ‘asexual’ species Aspergillus fumigatus (and later reconstitution of a sexual cycle), the Tuber genome has the potential for mating and is a heterothallic (outcrossing) fungus based on its mating type locus -just like many other filamentous Ascomycete species.

A second paper I encourage you take a look at (those with a Science subscription) is from Virginia Walbot’s lab on the formation of tumors by U. maydis in Maize. These tumors end up destroying the corn but can produce a delicious (to some) dish that is huitlacooche. The idea that the fungus is co-opting the host system by secreting proteins that acted in the same way as native proteins and that it has a tissue or organ specific repertoire was one that her lab has been pursuing. U. maydis can grow inside corn without detection and  the formation of tumors seems to be a manipulation of the plant as much as it is the pathogen directly taking resources from the plant.  It reminds me a bit of the production of secondary metabolites that can control plant growth like gibberellins produced by fungi.  This kind of manipulation and also ability to evade detection suggests a pretty specific set of controls that prevent the fungus from doing the wrong thing at the wrong time (to avoid detection). So they set out to see if there are a set of organ specific genes that the fungus uses during infection that would suggest a very host-specific strategy by this corn smut.

In this paper the authors evaluate the role of fungal genes specifically expressed in infection of different organs and also the role of secreted proteins in colonization of the organs.  In what is impressive and elegant work, the authors show through the use of microarrays and genetics that there is plant tissue specific gene expression of U. maydis – so infections in leaves express a different set of genes than those in seedlings.  Genetic and phenotypic evaluation of fungal strains with knockouts of sets of the predicted secreted proteins was able to confirm a role for specific secreted proteins that previously may have not had any discernible phenotype. They infect strains with knockouts of sets of genes that encode secreted proteins and compare the virulence when these strains infect individual organs of the maize host.  They showed there is significantly different virulence in the various tissues for a some of the mutants suggesting an organ-specific role for virulence of secreted proteins. They also go on to show that some of this organ specific infection requires organ-specific gene expression by evaluating maize mutants and the ability of the fungus to infect different organs.

Future work will hopefully followup to see what these secreted proteins are manipulating in the host and how they either enable virulence by protecting the pathogen, avoiding detection by turning of host responses, or co-opting host gene networks in some other way.

Martin F, Kohler A, Murat C, Balestrini R, Coutinho PM, Jaillon O, Montanini B, Morin E, Noel B, Percudani R, Porcel B, Rubini A, Amicucci A, Amselem J, Anthouard V, Arcioni S, Artiguenave F, Aury JM, Ballario P, Bolchi A, Brenna A, Brun A, Buée M, Cantarel B, Chevalier G, Couloux A, Da Silva C, Denoeud F, Duplessis S, Ghignone S, Hilselberger B, Iotti M, Marçais B, Mello A, Miranda M, Pacioni G, Quesneville H, Riccioni C, Ruotolo R, Splivallo R, Stocchi V, Tisserant E, Viscomi AR, Zambonelli A, Zampieri E, Henrissat B, Lebrun MH, Paolocci F, Bonfante P, Ottonello S, & Wincker P (2010). Périgord black truffle genome uncovers evolutionary origins and mechanisms of symbiosis. Nature PMID: 20348908

Skibbe DS, Doehlemann G, Fernandes J, & Walbot V (2010). Maize tumors caused by Ustilago maydis require organ-specific genes in host and pathogen. Science (New York, N.Y.), 328 (5974), 89-92 PMID: 20360107