Research Article: Cytokinin Production by the Rice Blast Fungus Is a Pivotal Requirement for Full Virulence

Date Published: February 22, 2016

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Emilie Chanclud, Anna Kisiala, Neil R. J Emery, Véronique Chalvon, Aurélie Ducasse, Corinne Romiti-Michel, Antoine Gravot, Thomas Kroj, Jean-Benoit Morel, Jin-Rong Xu.


Plants produce cytokinin (CK) hormones for controlling key developmental processes like source/sink distribution, cell division or programmed cell-death. Some plant pathogens have been shown to produce CKs but the function of this mimicry production by non-tumor inducing pathogens, has yet to be established. Here we identify a gene required for CK biosynthesis, CKS1, in the rice blast fungus Magnaporthe oryzae. The fungal-secreted CKs are likely perceived by the plant during infection since the transcriptional regulation of rice CK-responsive genes is altered in plants infected by the mutants in which CKS1 gene was deleted. Although cks1 mutants showed normal in vitro growth and development, they were severely affected for in planta growth and virulence. Moreover, we showed that the cks1 mutant triggered enhanced induction of plant defenses as manifested by an elevated oxidative burst and expression of defense-related markers. In addition, the contents of sugars and key amino acids for fungal growth were altered in and around the infection site by the cks1 mutant in a different manner than by the control strain. These results suggest that fungal-derived CKs are key effectors required for dampening host defenses and affecting sugar and amino acid distribution in and around the infection site.

Partial Text

Plant pathogens have evolved sophisticated strategies to manipulate host biological processes during infection [1,2]. (Hemi)biotrophic pathogens produce and secrete effector proteins and metabolites to hijack cellular metabolism of the infected tissues to their own benefit. For instance, the bacterial pathogen Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae produces Transcription Activator Like effectors that specifically induce the expression of genes coding for sugar transporters and thus enhance bacterial nutrition [3]. The virulence factors can also participate to the inhibition of plant defenses that lead to cell death, thus contributing to maintaining infected cells alive [4]. Plant-pathogen interactions shaped the pathogen virulence arsenal and the host immune response system. A first layer of plant defenses is induced by the perception of pathogen- or microbe-associated molecular patterns, like flagellin from bacteria or chitin from fungi [5]. These basal defense responses consist of an early accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), a thickening of the cell wall, and production of metabolites/enzymes with antimicrobial activities. To limit these defenses triggered by chitin perception by the plant’s chitin receptor, fungal pathogens like Magnaporthe oryzae secrete chitin-binding effectors that enable escape from the host recognition system [6]. Pathogens also interfere with other steps of plant immunity like signaling cascades following recognition and transcriptional regulators of host defenses [2,7].




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