Category Archives: plant pathogen

Ireland’s blight and Puccinia update

Hyphoid logic points out that it is appropriate to discuss about the oomycete Phytophthora infestans on St. Patrick’s Day and mentions a NYT article “The fungus that conquered Europe” that is worth a look.

It is also worth thinking about another blight, well rust, that is spreading through the middle east and could threaten wheat crops worldwide. New Scientist has excellent coverage of Puccinia graminis strain Ug99 which is spreading faster than expected due to a cyclone that spread the rust spores into Iran two years earlier than expected.

Related posts from last year. “Fungus could cause a food shortage”, “Puccinia black stem rust disease spreading”

Phytopathogenic Fungi: what have we learned from genome sequences?

ResearchBlogging.orgA review in Plant Cell from Darren Soanes and colleagues summarizes some of the major findings about evolution of phytopathogenic fungi gleaned from genome sequencing highlighting 12 fungi and 2 oomycetes. By mapping evolution of genes identified as virulence factors as well as genes that appear to have similar patterns of diversification, we can hope to derive some principals about how phytopathogenic fungi have evolved from saprophyte ancestors.

They infer from phylogenies we’ve published (Fitzpatrick et al, James et al) that plant pathogenic capabilities have arisen at least 5 times in the fungi and at least 7 times in the eukaryotes. In addition they use data on gene duplication and loss in the ascomycete fungi (Wapinski et al) to infer there large numbers of losses and gains of genes have occurred in fungal lineages.

Continue reading Phytopathogenic Fungi: what have we learned from genome sequences?

Stagonospora nodorum genome published

Blogging about Peer-Reviewed ResearchThe Stagonospra nodorum (teleomorph Phaeosphaeria nodorum) genome is now published in Plant Cell, “Sequencing and EST Analysis of the Wheat Pathogen Stagonospora nodorum”. The paper describes the sequencing and analysis of this Dothideomycete fungus. The analyses included identifying genes likely involved in pathogenecity such as PKS and NRPS genes and enabled the discovery of new genes like ToxA.

Continue reading Stagonospora nodorum genome published

Fusarium graminearum genome published

The genome of the wheat and cereal pathogen Fusarium graminearum was published in Science this week in an article entitled “The Fusarium graminearum Genome Reveals a Link Between Localized Polymorphism and Pathogen Specializationtion”. The project was a collaboration of many different Fusarium research groups. The genome sequencing was spearheaded by the Broad Institute at Harvard and MIT and is part of a larger project to sequence several different species of Fusarium. The group sequenced a second strain in order to identify polymorphisms.

Some of the key findings

  • The presence of Repeat Induced point-mutation (RIP) has likely limited the amount of repetitive and duplicated sequences in the genome
  • Most of the genes unique to F. graminearum (and thus not present in 4 other Fusarium spp genomes) are found in the telomeres
  • Between the sequenced strains SNP density ranged from 0 to 17.5 polymorphisms per kb.
  • Some of the genes expressed uniquely during plant infection (408 total) include known virulence factors and many plant cell-wall degrading enzymes.
  • The genes showing some of the highest SNP diversity tended to be unique to Fusarium and often unique to F. graminearum

Genomes on the horizon at JGI

Several more fungi are on the docket for sequencing at JGI through their community sequencing program. This includes

This complements an ever growing list of fungal genome sequences which is probably topping 80+ now not including the several dozen strains of Saccharomyces that are being sequenced at Sanger Centre and a separately funded NIH project to be sequenced at WashU.

Fungus could cause a food shortage

A while back, Jason blogged briefly on a New Scientists article about the rise of a new Puccinia graminis strain, Ug99, that is spreading through West African wheat fields at an enormous rates. It looks like this story is growing in the scientific conciousness, as Science is now running an article on the spread of this wheat pandemic.

The article has a nice bit of background regarding the rise of the disease. It seems that it is spreading so quickly for due to its relatively broad host range compared to other strains. While scientists have been working to derive resistant wheat varieties, Puccinia has successfully foiled their recent attempts by mutating to acheive resistance to the plant expressed Sr24.

To boot, this strain has been found in Yemen, allowing its spores to hitch a ride along the winds that blow north along the Indian Ocean, putting much of the global bread basket at risk (I imagine that the last thing the middle east needs right now is a wheat shortage). The last time a rust spread through this area, it caused 1 billion dollars in damage. Given the extensive host range of this variety, experts predict that damages will exceede at least three times this amount.

The spread of the rust pandemic

Fortunately, researchers in Ethiopian have derived two wheat strains that may be resistant to Ug99. However, it can take several years to get these wheat strains in the ground and, ultimately, no one is certain that Ug99 won’t cleverly find a way to adapt resistance. We should keep our ears to the rail on this one: it could be a big problem.

Puccinia black stem rust disease spreading

The New Scientist has an article about the spread of black stem rust caused by Puccinia graminis. We briefly mentioned the 1st release of a Puccinia genome in January. Some more links about the spread of the Ug99 virulent strain.

Continue reading Puccinia black stem rust disease spreading

That was a lot of work

I’ve never worked with Magnaporthe grisea, the fungus responsible for rice blast, one of the most devastating crop diseases, but I do know that its life cycle is complicated and that knocking out roughly 61% of the genes in the genome and evaluating the mutant phenotype to infer gene function is not trivial. In their recent letter to Nature, Jeon et al did what many of us have dreamed of doing in our fungus of interest: manipulate every gene to find those that contribute to a phenotype of interest.

In their study, the authors looked for pathogenecity genes. Interestingly, the defects in appressorium formation and condiation had the strongest correlation with defects pathogenicity, suggesting that these two developmental stages are crucial for virulence. Ultimately, the authors identify 203 loci involved in pathogenecity, the majority of which have no homologous hits in the sequence databases and have no clear enriched GO functions. Impressively, this constitutes the largest, unbiased list of pathogenecity genes identified for a single species (though so of us, I’m sure, may have a problem with the term “unbiased”).

If you’d like to play with their data, the authors have made it available in their ATMT Database.