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The Functional Characterization of Podosphaera xanthii Candidate Effector Genes Reveals Novel Target Functions for Fungal Pathogenicity

Martínez-Cruz, Jesús, Romero, Diego, de la Torre, Fernando N., Fernández-Ortuño, Dolores, Torés, Juan A., de Vicente, Antonio, Pérez-García, Alejandro
Molecular plant-microbe interactions 2018 v.31 no.9 pp. 914-931
Agrobacterium radiobacter, Cucurbitaceae, Escherichia coli, Podosphaera xanthii, alpha-mannosidase, fungal growth, gene silencing, genes, glycosylation, hydrogen peroxide, immunity, models, pathogenesis, pathogenicity, plant pathogenic fungi, plasma membrane, powdery mildew, prediction, proteins, signal peptide
Podosphaera xanthii is the main causal agent of powdery mildew disease in cucurbits. In a previous study, we determined that P. xanthii expresses approximately 50 Podosphaera effector candidates (PECs), identified based on the presence of a predicted signal peptide and the absence of functional annotation. In this work, we used host-induced gene silencing (HIGS), employing Agrobacterium tumefaciens as a vector for the delivery of the silencing constructs (ATM-HIGS), to identify genes involved in early plant-pathogen interaction. The analysis of seven selected PEC-encoding genes showed that six of them, PEC007, PEC009, PEC019, PEC032, PEC034, and PEC054, are required for P. xanthii pathogenesis, as revealed by reduced fungal growth and increased production of hydrogen peroxide by host cells. In addition, protein models and protein-ligand predictions allowed us to identify putative functions for these candidates. The biochemical activities of PEC019, PEC032, and PEC054 were elucidated using their corresponding proteins expressed in Escherichia coli. These proteins were confirmed as phospholipid-binding protein, α-mannosidase, and cellulose-binding protein. Further, BLAST searches showed that these three effectors are widely distributed in phytopathogenic fungi. These results suggest novel targets for fungal effectors, such as host-cell plasma membrane, host-cell glycosylation, and damage-associated molecular pattern–triggered immunity.