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Comparative genome analysis reveals adaptation to the ectophytic lifestyle of sooty blotch and flyspeck fungi

Chao Xu, Rong Zhang, Guangyu Sun, Mark L. Gleason.

Genome Biol. Evol.

DOI: 10.1093/gbe/evx229

 

 

Abstract: Sooty blotch and flyspeck (SBFS) fungi are a distinctive group of plant pathogens which, although phylogenetically diverse, occupy an exclusively surface-dwelling niche. They cause economic losses by superficially blemishing the fruit of several tree crops, principally apple, in moist temperate regions worldwide. In this study, we performed genome-wide comparative analyses separately within three pairs of species of ascomycete pathogens; each pair contained an SBFS species as well as a closely related but plant-penetrating parasite (PPP) species. Our results showed that all three of the SBFS pathogens had significantly smaller genome sizes, gene numbers and repeat ratios than their counterpart PPPs. The pathogenicity-related genes encoding MFS transporters, secreted proteins (mainly effectors and peptidases), plant cell wall degrading enzymes and secondary metabolism enzymes were also drastically reduced in the SBFS fungi compared with their PPP relatives. We hypothesize that the above differences in genome composition are due largely to different levels of acquisition, loss, expansion and contraction of gene families and emergence of orphan genes. Furthermore, results suggested that horizontal gene transfer may have played a role, although limited, in the divergent evolutionary paths of SBFS pathogens and PPPs; repeat-induced point mutation could have inhibited the propagation of transposable elements and expansion of gene families in the SBFS group, given that this mechanism is stronger in the SBFS fungi than in their PPP relatives. These results substantially broaden understanding of evolutionary mechanisms of adaptation of fungi to the epicuticular niche of plants.