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Deletion and complementation of the mating type (MAT) locus of the wheat head blight pathogen Gibberella zeae

Desjardins, A.E., Brown, D.W., Yun, S.H., Proctor, R.H., Lee, T., Plattner, R.D., Lu, S.W., Turgeon, B.G.
Applied and environmental microbiology 2004 v.70 no.4 pp. 2437
Gibberella zeae, plant pathogenic fungi, gene deletion, loci, sexual reproduction, genetic complementation, genetic transformation, sporulation, conidia, ascospores, fruiting bodies, mutants, phenotype, scab diseases, fungal diseases of plants, Triticum aestivum, wheat, deoxynivalenol
Gibberella zeae, a self-fertile, haploid filamentous ascomycete, causes serious epidemics of wheat (Triticum aestivum) head blight worldwide and contaminates grain with trichothecene mycotoxins. Anecdotal evidence dating back to the late 19th century indicates that G. zeae ascospores (sexual spores) are a more important inoculum source than are macroconidia (asexual spores), although the fungus can produce both during wheat head blight epidemics. To develop fungal strains to test this hypothesis, the entire mating type (MAT1) locus was deleted from a self-fertile (MAT1-1/MAT1-2), virulent, trichothecene-producing wild-type strain of G. zeae. The resulting MAT deletion (mat1-1/mat1-2) strains were unable to produce perithecia or ascospores and appeared to be unable to mate with the fertile strain from which they were derived. Complementation of a MAT deletion strain by transformation with a copy of the entire MAT locus resulted in recovery of production of perithecia and ascospores. MAT deletion strains and MAT-complemented strains retained the ability to produce macroconidia that could cause head blight, as assessed by direct injection into wheat heads in greenhouse tests. Availability of MAT-null and MAT-complemented strains provides a means to determine the importance of ascospores in the biology of G. zeae and perhaps to identify novel approaches to control wheat head blight.