The role of vegetative cell fusions in the development and asexual reproduction of the wheat fungal pathogen Zymoseptoria tritici

The ability of fungal cells to undergo cell-to-cell communication and anastomosis, the process of vegetative hyphal fusion, allows them to maximize their overall fitness. Previous studies in a number of fungal species have identified the requirement of several signaling pathways for anastomosis, including the so far best characterized soft (So) gene, and the MAPK pathway components MAK-1 and MAK-2 of Neurospora crassa. Despite the observations of hyphal fusions’ involvement in pathogenicity and host adhesion, the connection between cell fusion and fungal lifestyles is still unclear. Here, we address the role of anastomosis in fungal development and asexual reproduction in Zymoseptoria tritici, the most important fungal pathogen of wheat in Europe.

We show that Z. tritici undergoes self-fusion between distinct cellular structures, and its mechanism is dependent on the initial cell density. Contrary to other fungi, cell fusion in Z. tritici only resulted in cytoplasmic mixing but not in multinucleated cell formation. The deletion of the So orthologous ZtSof1 disrupted cell-to-cell communication affecting both hyphal and germling fusion. We show that Z. tritici mutants for MAPK-encoding ZtSlt2 (orthologous to MAK-1) and ZtFus3 (orthologous to MAK-2) genes also failed to undergo anastomosis, demonstrating the functional conservation of this signaling mechanism across species. Additionally, the ΔZtSof1 mutant was severely impaired in melanization, suggesting that the So gene function is related to melanization. Finally, we demonstrated that anastomosis is dispensable for pathogenicity, but essential for the pycnidium development, and its absence abolishes the asexual reproduction of Z. tritici.

We demonstrate the role for ZtSof1, ZtSlt2, and ZtFus3 in cell fusions of Z. tritici. Cell fusions are essential for different aspects of the Z. tritici biology, and the ZtSof1 gene is a potential target to control septoria tritici blotch (STB) disease.

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  • Name: Francisco, Carolina Sardinha, Type: Corresponding Author,
  • Name: Zwyssig, Maria Manuela, Type: Author,
  • Name: Palma-Guerrero, Javier, Type: Author,
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DFW Organisation RRes
DFW Work Package 2
DOI 10.1186/s12915-020-00838-9
Date Last Updated 2020-11-30T15:51:25.684757
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Open Access Status gold
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