The microtubule cytoskeleton of the corn smut fungus Ustilago maydis.
Shiel, Anna Iwona
Date: 12 December 2014
University of Exeter
PhD in Biological Sciences
Microtubules in the fungal pathogen Ustilago maydis have important roles, which include polar budding, morphogenesis and nuclear migration. They also serve as tracks for molecular motors, responsible for intracellular transport of organelles and membrane trafficking. Moreover, microtubules are indispensable during both interphase and ...
Microtubules in the fungal pathogen Ustilago maydis have important roles, which include polar budding, morphogenesis and nuclear migration. They also serve as tracks for molecular motors, responsible for intracellular transport of organelles and membrane trafficking. Moreover, microtubules are indispensable during both interphase and cell division, and they play a crucial role in long-distance microtubule-based transport, which occurs in neurons or fungal hypha. Therefore, in order to carry out their functions correctly they need to be well organised and stabilised, which is achieved mainly by various microtubule-associated proteins. In this thesis, different aspects of microtubule (MT) cytoskeleton organisation in U. maydis were investigated, using bioinformatics and experimental approaches. In the first part of the thesis I studied the microtubule-associated protein (MAP) repertoire in U. maydis, which has never been done before in a comprehensive way. For this purpose, searches across five eukaryotic model organisms were conducted to identify all of their known MAPs, to query the U. maydis database. In addition, all of the proteins were checked for their domain architecture, to help decide if an orthologue had been found. As a result, 66 potential MAP orthologues were identified. The second part of this thesis focused on identifying novel factors involved in the organisation of the microtubule cytoskeleton using a specially designed genetic screen. This work involved five microtubule-organisation defect (MOD) mutants, generated by UV-mutagenesis, which were characterised by inability to produce long hyphae as well as by short, fragmented microtubules. To find which genes were responsible for this phenotype, the genomes of all mutants were sequenced and compared with a wild-type genome, and mutations in many genes were found. The analysis revealed potential candidate genes responsible for the specific phenotype of the mutants. However, most probably, UV-generated point mutations in more than one gene played a part in the defective microtubule array. In the final part of this thesis, the function of two beta-tubulin isotypes in U. maydis was analysed. Using conditional mutants, I demonstrated that there are subtle functional differences between the two beta tubulins.
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