Signalling Circuitry Controlling Fungal Virulence in the Rice Blast Fungus Magnaporthe Oryzae
Date: 10 October 2014
University of Exeter
PhD in Biological Sciences
Rice blast disease is caused by the filamentous ascomycete fungus Magnaporthe oryzae and is the most destructive disease of cultivated rice. The pathogen elaborates a specialized infection structure called the appressorium. The morphological and physiological transitions that lead to appressorium formation of M. oryzae are stimulated ...
Rice blast disease is caused by the filamentous ascomycete fungus Magnaporthe oryzae and is the most destructive disease of cultivated rice. The pathogen elaborates a specialized infection structure called the appressorium. The morphological and physiological transitions that lead to appressorium formation of M. oryzae are stimulated through perception of environmental signals and are tightly regulated by cell cycle checkpoints. External stimuli are internalized by a variety of intracellular MAP kinase signaling pathways, and the major pathway regulating appressorium morphogenesis and plant infection is the Pmk1 MAP kinase signaling pathway. The central kinase, Pmk1, is required for appressorium morphogenesis and the homeobox and C2/H2 Zn-finger domain transcription factor, called Mst12, is required for appressorium formation and tissue invasion. The Mst12 null mutant is able to form melanised appressoria, but it is non-pathogenic. To understand the mechanism of appressorium morphogenesis and penetration peg formation, genome-wide comparative transcriptional profiling analysis was performed for the Δpmk1 and Δmst12 mutant using RNA-seq and HiSeq 2000 sequencing. This thesis reports the identification of gene sets regulated by the Pmk1 signalling pathway and defines the sub-set of these genes regulated by Mst12. I show that a hierarchy of transcription factors is likely to operate downstream of Pmk1 to regulate the main processes required for appressorium morphogenesis and plant infection. I also report the role of Mst12 in cytoskeletal re-organisation and show that it is necessary for septin-dependent F-actin polymerisation at the base on the appressorium prior to plant infection. This is consistent with the major transcriptional changes observed by RNA-seq. The thesis also reports experiments that strongly suggest that appressorium mediated plant penetration is regulated by an S-phase checkpoint which operates independently of the conventional DNA damage and repair response, and the Cds1 and Chk1 checkpoint kinases. Transcriptional profiling results are consistent with the S-phase checkpoint operating downstream of the Pmk1 MAP kinase signalling pathway. An integrated model for the operation of the Pmk1/Mst12 signalling pathways and the hierarchical control of appressorium morphogenesis in the rice blast fungus is presented.
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