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- Which Morphological Characteristics Are Most Influenced by the Host Matrix in Downy Mildews? A Case Study in Pseudoperonospora cubensis (2012)
- Before the advent of molecular phylogenetics, species concepts in the downy mildews, an economically important group of obligate biotrophic oomycete pathogens, have mostly been based upon host range and morphology. While molecular phylogenetic studies have confirmed a narrow host range for many downy mildew species, others, like Pseudoperonospora cubensis affect even different genera. Although often morphological differences were found for new, phylogenetically distinct species, uncertainty prevails regarding their host ranges, especially regarding related plants that have been reported as downy mildew hosts, but were not included in the phylogenetic studies. In these cases, the basis for deciding if the divergence in some morphological characters can be deemed sufficient for designation as separate species is uncertain, as observed morphological divergence could be due to different host matrices colonised. The broad host range of P. cubensis (ca. 60 host species) renders this pathogen an ideal model organism for the investigation of morphological variations in relation to the host matrix and to evaluate which characteristics are best indicators for conspecificity or distinctiveness. On the basis of twelve morphological characterisitcs and a set of twelve cucurbits from five different Cucurbitaceae tribes, including the two species, Cyclanthera pedata and Thladiantha dubia, hitherto not reported as hosts of P. cubensis, a significant influence of the host matrix on pathogen morphology was found. Given the high intraspecific variation of some characteristics, also their plasticity has to be taken into account. The implications for morphological species determination and the confidence limits of morphological characteristics are discussed. For species delimitations in Pseudoperonospora it is shown that the ratio of the height of the first ramification to the sporangiophore length, ratio of the longer to the shorter ultimate branchlet, and especially the length and width of sporangia, as well as, with some reservations, their ratio, are the most suitable characteristics for species delimitation.
- Genome sequence of the necrotrophic plant pathogen Pythium ultimum reveals original pathogenicity mechanisms and effector repertoire (2010)
- Background: Pythium ultimum (P. ultimum) is a ubiquitous oomycete plant pathogen responsible for a variety of diseases on a broad range of crop and ornamental species. Results: The P. ultimum genome (42.8 Mb) encodes 15,290 genes and has extensive sequence similarity and synteny with related Phytophthora species, including the potato blight pathogen Phytophthora infestans. Whole transcriptome sequencing revealed expression of 86% of genes, with detectable differential expression of suites of genes under abiotic stress and in the presence of a host. The predicted proteome includes a large repertoire of proteins involved in plant pathogen interactions although surprisingly, the P. ultimum genome does not encode any classical RXLR effectors and relatively few Crinkler genes in comparison to related phytopathogenic oomycetes. A lower number of enzymes involved in carbohydrate metabolism were present compared to Phytophthora species, with the notable absence of cutinases, suggesting a significant difference in virulence mechanisms between P. ultimum and more host specific oomycete species. Although we observed a high degree of orthology with Phytophthora genomes, there were novel features of the P. ultimum proteome including an expansion of genes involved in proteolysis and genes unique to Pythium. We identified a small gene family of cadherins, proteins involved in cell adhesion, the first report in a genome outside the metazoans. Conclusions: Access to the P. ultimum genome has revealed not only core pathogenic mechanisms within the oomycetes but also lineage specific genes associated with the alternative virulence and lifestyles found within the pythiaceous lineages compared to the Peronosporaceae.
- Gene loss rather than gene gain is associated with a host jump from monocots to dicots in the smut fungus Melanopsichium pennsylvanicum (2014)
- Smut fungi are well-suited to investigate the ecology and evolution of plant pathogens, as they are strictly biotrophic, yet cultivable on media. Here we report the genome sequence of Melanopsichium pennsylvanicum, closely related to Ustilago maydis and other Poaceae-infecting smuts, but parasitic to a dicot plant. To explore the evolutionary patterns resulting from host adaptation after this huge host jump, the genome of M. pennsylvanicum was sequenced and compared to the genomes of Ustilago maydis, Sporisorium reilianum, and Ustilago hordei. While all four genomes had a similar completeness in CEGMA analyses, gene absence was highest in M. pennsylvanicum, and most pronounced in putative secreted proteins, which are often considered as effector candidates. In contrast, the amount of private genes was similar among the species, highlighting that gene loss rather than gene gain is the hallmark of adaptation after the host jump to the dicot host. Our analyses revealed a trend of putative effectors to be next to another putative effector, but the majority of these are not in clusters and thus the focus on pathogenicity clusters might not be appropriate for all smut genomes. Positive selection studies revealed that M. pennsylvanicum has the highest number and proportion of genes under positive selection. In general, putative effectors showed a higher proportion of positively selected genes than non-effector candidates. The 248 putative secreted effectors found in all four smut genomes might constitute a core set needed for pathogenicity, while those 92 that are found in all grass-parasitic smuts, but have no ortholog in M. pennsylvanicum might constitute a set of effectors important for successful colonization of grass hosts.