- 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.
- Seed Transmission of Pseudoperonospora cubensis (2014)
- Pseudoperonospora cubensis, an obligate biotrophic oomycete causing devastating foliar disease in species of the Cucurbitaceae family, was never reported in seeds or transmitted by seeds. We now show that P. cubensis occurs in fruits and seeds of downy mildew-infected plants but not in fruits or seeds of healthy plants. About 6.7% of the fruits collected during 2012–2014 have developed downy mildew when homogenized and inoculated onto detached leaves and 0.9% of the seeds collected developed downy mildew when grown to the seedling stage. This is the first report showing that P. cubensis has become seed-transmitted in cucurbits. Species-specific PCR assays showed that P. cubensis occurs in ovaries, fruit seed cavity and seed embryos of cucurbits. We propose that international trade of fruits or seeds of cucurbits might be associated with the recent global change in the population structure of P. cubensis.
- 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.