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1.  Rapid quantification of plant-powdery mildew interactions by qPCR and conidiospore counts 
Plant Methods  2012;8:35.
The powdery mildew disease represents a valuable patho-system to study the interaction between plant hosts and obligate biotrophic fungal pathogens. Numerous discoveries have been made on the basis of the quantitative evaluation of plant-powdery mildew interactions, especially in the context of hyper-susceptible and/or resistant plant mutants. However, the presently available methods to score the pathogenic success of powdery mildew fungi are laborious and thus not well suited for medium- to high-throughput analysis.
Here we present two new protocols that allow the rapid quantitative assessment of powdery mildew disease development. One procedure depends on quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR)-based evaluation of fungal biomass, while the other relies on the quantification of fungal conidiospores. We validated both techniques using the powdery mildew pathogen Golovinomyces orontii on a set of hyper-susceptible and resistant Arabidopsis thaliana mutants and found that both cover a wide dynamic range of one to two (qPCR) and four to five (quantification of conidia) orders of magnitude, respectively. The two approaches yield reproducible results and are easy to perform without specialized equipment.
The qPCR and spore count assays rapidly and reproducibly quantify powdery mildew pathogenesis. Our methods are performed at later stages of infection and discern mutant phenotypes accurately. The assays therefore complement currently used procedures of powdery mildew quantification and can overcome some of their limitations. In addition, they can easily be adapted to other plant-powdery mildew patho-systems.
PMCID: PMC3522566  PMID: 22937820
Arabidopsis thaliana; Conidiospores; Golovinomyces orontii; Powdery mildew; Quantification; qPCR
2.  A functional–structural kiwifruit vine model integrating architecture, carbon dynamics and effects of the environment 
Annals of Botany  2010;107(5):747-764.
Background and Aims
Functional–structural modelling can be used to increase our understanding of how different aspects of plant structure and function interact, identify knowledge gaps and guide priorities for future experimentation. By integrating existing knowledge of the different aspects of the kiwifruit (Actinidia deliciosa) vine's architecture and physiology, our aim is to develop conceptual and mathematical hypotheses on several of the vine's features: (a) plasticity of the vine's architecture; (b) effects of organ position within the canopy on its size; (c) effects of environment and horticultural management on shoot growth, light distribution and organ size; and (d) role of carbon reserves in early shoot growth.
Using the L-system modelling platform, a functional–structural plant model of a kiwifruit vine was created that integrates architectural development, mechanistic modelling of carbon transport and allocation, and environmental and management effects on vine and fruit growth. The branching pattern was captured at the individual shoot level by modelling axillary shoot development using a discrete-time Markov chain. An existing carbon transport resistance model was extended to account for several source/sink components of individual plant elements. A quasi-Monte Carlo path-tracing algorithm was used to estimate the absorbed irradiance of each leaf.
Key Results
Several simulations were performed to illustrate the model's potential to reproduce the major features of the vine's behaviour. The model simulated vine growth responses that were qualitatively similar to those observed in experiments, including the plastic response of shoot growth to local carbon supply, the branching patterns of two Actinidia species, the effect of carbon limitation and topological distance on fruit size and the complex behaviour of sink competition for carbon.
The model is able to reproduce differences in vine and fruit growth arising from various experimental treatments. This implies it will be a valuable tool for refining our understanding of kiwifruit growth and for identifying strategies to improve production.
PMCID: PMC3077975  PMID: 20855486
Actinidia deliciosa; kiwifruit; L-systems; plant architecture; carbon allocation; functional–structural plant model
3.  The Powdery Mildew Disease of Arabidopsis: A Paradigm for the Interaction between Plants and Biotrophic Fungi 
The powdery mildew diseases, caused by fungal species of the Erysiphales, have an important economic impact on a variety of plant species and have driven basic and applied research efforts in the field of phytopathology for many years. Although the first taxonomic reports on the Erysiphales date back to the 1850's, advances into the molecular biology of these fungal species have been hampered by their obligate biotrophic nature and difficulties associated with their cultivation and genetic manipulation in the laboratory. The discovery in the 1990's of a few species of powdery mildew fungi that cause disease on Arabidopsis has opened a new chapter in this research field. The great advantages of working with a model plant species have translated into remarkable progress in our understanding of these complex pathogens and their interaction with the plant host. Herein we summarize advances in the study of Arabidopsis-powdery mildew interactions and discuss their implications for the general field of plant pathology. We provide an overview of the life cycle of the pathogens on Arabidopsis and describe the structural and functional changes that occur during infection in the host and fungus in compatible and incompatible interactions, with special emphasis on defense signaling, resistance pathways, and compatibility factors. Finally, we discuss the future of powdery mildew research in anticipation of the sequencing of multiple powdery mildew genomes. The cumulative body of knowledge on powdery mildews of Arabidopsis provides a valuable tool for the study and understanding of disease associated with many other obligate biotrophic pathogen species.
PMCID: PMC3243333  PMID: 22303240
4.  The autophagy gene, ATG18a, plays a negative role in powdery mildew resistance and mildew-induced cell death in Arabidopsis 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2011;6(9):1408-1410.
Autophagy is a conserved intracellular recycling system that traffics cellular organelles and cytosolic proteins within lysosomes for reuse or breakdown in eukaryotes. Increased evidence indicates that autophagy is involved in programmed cell death and disease resistance in plants. We recently showed that atg2, atg5, atg7 and atg10 displayed early senescence and cell death in later growth stage under nutrient-rich conditions in Arabidopsis thaliana. These mutants also exhibited powdery mildew resistance and mildew-induced cell death. Salicylic acid (SA) signaling is required for atg2-mediated powdery mildew resistance, however, inactivation of SA signaling is not sufficient to fully suppress powdery mildew-induced cell death in atg2 mutant.1 Here, we show that atg18a-2 is also resistant to the powdery mildew pathogen, Golovinomyces cichoracearum, and it shows mildew-induced cell death similar to the atg2 mutant. Taken together, our study reveals that autophagy plays important roles in suppression of cell death and defense response to the biotrophic pathogen, the powdery mildew fungus. Future work on autophagy in plants will shine light on how autophagy is involved in cell death and defense response in plants.
PMCID: PMC3258078  PMID: 21847024
autophagy; cell death; defense response; ATG2; ATG18a; powdery mildew
5.  The role of nitric oxide in the interaction of Arabidopsis thaliana with the biotrophic fungi, Golovinomyces orontii and Erysiphe pisi 
Powdery mildews are a diverse group of pathogenic fungi that can infect a large number of plant species, including many economically important crops. However, basic and applied research on these devastating diseases has been hampered by the obligate biotrophic lifestyle of the pathogens, which require living host cells for growth and reproduction, and lacking genetic and molecular tools for important host plants. The establishment of Arabidopsis thaliana as a host of different powdery mildew species allowed pursuing new strategies to study the molecular mechanisms governing these complex plant–pathogen interactions. Nitric oxide (NO) has emerged as an important signaling molecule in plants, which is produced upon infection and involved in activation of plant immune responses. However, the source and pathway of NO production and its precise function in the regulatory network of reactions leading to resistance is still unknown. We studied the response of Arabidopsis thaliana to infection with the adapted powdery mildew, Golovinomyces orontii (compatible interaction) and the non-adapted, Erysiphe pisi (incompatible interaction). We observed that NO accumulated rapidly and transiently at infection sites and we established a correlation between the resistance phenotype and the amount and timing of NO production. Arabidopsis mutants with defective immune response accumulated lower NO levels compared to wild type. Conversely, increased NO levels, generated by treatment with chemicals or expression of a NO-synthesizing enzyme, resulted in enhanced resistance, but only sustained NO production prevented excessive leaf colonization by the fungus, which was not achieved by a short NO burst although this reduced the initial penetration success. By contrast, lowered NO levels did not impair the ultimate resistance phenotype. Although our results suggest a function of NO in mediating plant immune responses, a direct impact on pathogen growth and development cannot be excluded.
PMCID: PMC3766854  PMID: 24058365
disease resistance; plant defense signaling; plant immunity; plant-microbe interaction; powdery mildew; Golovinomyces orontii; Erysiphe pisi
6.  Gene Gain and Loss during Evolution of Obligate Parasitism in the White Rust Pathogen of Arabidopsis thaliana 
PLoS Biology  2011;9(7):e1001094.
Biotrophic eukaryotic plant pathogens require a living host for their growth and form an intimate haustorial interface with parasitized cells. Evolution to biotrophy occurred independently in fungal rusts and powdery mildews, and in oomycete white rusts and downy mildews. Biotroph evolution and molecular mechanisms of biotrophy are poorly understood. It has been proposed, but not shown, that obligate biotrophy results from (i) reduced selection for maintenance of biosynthetic pathways and (ii) gain of mechanisms to evade host recognition or suppress host defence. Here we use Illumina sequencing to define the genome, transcriptome, and gene models for the obligate biotroph oomycete and Arabidopsis parasite, Albugo laibachii. A. laibachii is a member of the Chromalveolata, which incorporates Heterokonts (containing the oomycetes), Apicomplexa (which includes human parasites like Plasmodium falciparum and Toxoplasma gondii), and four other taxa. From comparisons with other oomycete plant pathogens and other chromalveolates, we reveal independent loss of molybdenum-cofactor-requiring enzymes in downy mildews, white rusts, and the malaria parasite P. falciparum. Biotrophy also requires “effectors” to suppress host defence; we reveal RXLR and Crinkler effectors shared with other oomycetes, and also discover and verify a novel class of effectors, the “CHXCs”, by showing effector delivery and effector functionality. Our findings suggest that evolution to progressively more intimate association between host and parasite results in reduced selection for retention of certain biosynthetic pathways, and particularly reduced selection for retention of molybdopterin-requiring biosynthetic pathways. These mechanisms are not only relevant to plant pathogenic oomycetes but also to human pathogens within the Chromalveolata.
Author Summary
Plant pathogens that cannot grow except on their hosts are called obligate biotrophs. How such biotrophy evolves is poorly understood. In this study, we sequenced the genome of the obligate biotroph white rust pathogen (Albugo laibachii, Oomycota) of Arabidopsis. From comparisons with other oomycete plant pathogens, diatoms, and the human pathogen Plasmodium falciparum, we reveal a loss of important metabolic enzymes. We also reveal the appearance of defence-suppressing “effectors”, some carrying motifs known from other oomycete effectors, and discover and experimentally verify a novel class of effectors that share a CHXC motif within 50 amino acids of the signal peptide cleavage site. Obligate biotrophy involves an intimate association within host cells at the haustorial interface (where the parasite penetrates the host cell's cell wall), where nutrients are acquired from the host and effectors are delivered to the host. We found that A. laibachii, like Hyaloperonospora arabidopsidis and Plasmodium falciparum, lacks molybdopterin-requiring biosynthetic pathways, suggesting relaxed selection for retention of, or even selection against, this pathway. We propose that when defence suppression becomes sufficiently effective, hosts become such a reliable source of nutrients that a free-living phase can be lost. These mechanisms leading to obligate biotrophy and host specificity are relevant not only to plant pathogenic oomycetes but also to human pathogens.
PMCID: PMC3130010  PMID: 21750662
7.  BSK1, a receptor-like cytoplasmic kinase, involved in both BR signaling and innate immunity in Arabidopsis 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2013;8(8):e24996.
Molecular interaction between powdery mildew fungi and Arabidopsis has been widely used as a model system to study plant immunity. Arabidopsis EDR2 (enhanced disease resistance 2) is a well characterized negative regulator in powdery mildew resistance and mildew-induced cell death. Recently, we showed that a mutation in BSK1 (br-signaling kinase 1), suppressed edr2-mediated disease resistance.1 And the bsk1-1 single mutant displayed enhanced susceptibility to multiple pathogens, indicating that BSK1 plays important roles in plant immunity. BSK1 is a receptor-like cytoplasmic kinase and localizes on plasma membrane; loss of the membrane localization signaling disrupts BSK1 functions in edr2-mediated resistance. Significantly, BSK1 physically associates with the PAMP receptor FLS2 (flagellin sensing 2) and is required by FLS2-mediated ROS burst.1 Here we show that disruption of BSK1 membrane localization affects the BSK1-FLS2 interactions, suggesting the membrane association of BSK1 is important for both edr2-mediated signaling and the BSK1-FLS2 complex formation. Previously, it was shown that BSK1 is a substrate of the brassinosteroid (BR) receptor BRI1 (brassinosteroid insensitive 1) and plays critical roles in BR signaling.2 Further exploration of signaling transductions downstream of BSK1-FLS2 complex will not only shed new light on how BSK1 regulates plant immunity, but may also help to dissect the connections between plant growth and defense.
PMCID: PMC3999065  PMID: 23733062
powdery mildew; disease resistance; BR; BSK1; FLS2
8.  Evolution of Pathogen Specialisation in a Host Metapopulation: Joint Effects of Host and Pathogen Dispersal 
PLoS Computational Biology  2014;10(5):e1003633.
Metapopulation processes are important determinants of epidemiological and evolutionary dynamics in host-pathogen systems, and are therefore central to explaining observed patterns of disease or genetic diversity. In particular, the spatial scale of interactions between pathogens and their hosts is of primary importance because migration rates of one species can affect both spatial and temporal heterogeneity of selection on the other. In this study we developed a stochastic and discrete time simulation model to specifically examine the joint effects of host and pathogen dispersal on the evolution of pathogen specialisation in a spatially explicit metapopulation. We consider a plant-pathogen system in which the host metapopulation is composed of two plant genotypes. The pathogen is dispersed by air-borne spores on the host metapopulation. The pathogen population is characterised by a single life-history trait under selection, the infection efficacy. We found that restricted host dispersal can lead to high amount of pathogen diversity and that the extent of pathogen specialisation varied according to the spatial scale of host-pathogen dispersal. We also discuss the role of population asynchrony in determining pathogen evolutionary outcomes.
Author Summary
Relatively little is known about actual patterns of generalisation and specialisation in natural plant-pathogen systems largely because many fewer studies have focused on the pathogenicity structure of pathogen populations than on the resistance structure of their host populations. The spatial scale of interactions between a pathogen and its host is seen to be of prime importance in determining evolutionary trajectories of host-pathogen metapopulations because migration rates of one of the species affect the spatial and temporal heterogeneity of selection on the other. Here we develop a simulation model to specifically examine the joint effects of host and pathogen dispersal on the evolution of pathogen specialisation in a spatially explicit metapopulation. The present approach gives insights into the role of host and pathogen dispersal in driving pathogen diversity and adaptation and encourages further characterisation of the pathogenicity structure of crop and natural pathogen populations.
PMCID: PMC4031062  PMID: 24853675
9.  A component of the Sec61 ER protein transporting pore is required for plant susceptibility to powdery mildew 
Biotrophic pathogens, like the powdery mildew fungi, require living plant cells for their growth and reproduction. During infection, a specialized structure called the haustorium is formed by the fungus. The haustorium is surrounded by a plant cell-derived extrahaustorial membrane (EHM). Over the EHM, the fungus obtains nutrients from and secretes effector proteins into the plant cell. In the plant cell these effectors interfere with cellular processes such as pathogen defense and membrane trafficking. However, the mechanisms behind effector delivery are largely unknown. This paper provides a model for and new insights into a putative transfer mechanism of effectors into the plant cell. We show that silencing of the barley Sec61βa transcript results in decreased susceptibility to the powdery mildew fungus. HvSec61βa is a component of both the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) translocon and retrotranslocon pores, the latter being part of the ER-associated protein degradation machinery. We provide support for a model suggesting that the retrotranslocon function of HvSec61βa is required for successful powdery mildew fungal infection. HvSec61βa-GFP and a luminal ER marker were co-localized to the ER, which was found to be in close proximity to the EHM around the haustorial body, but not the haustorial fingers. This differential EHM proximity suggests that the ER, including HvSec61βa, may be actively recruited by the haustorium, potentially to provide efficient effector transfer to the cytosol. Effector transport across this EHM-ER interface may occur by a vesicle-mediated process, while the Sec61 retrotranslocon pore potentially provides an escape route for these proteins to reach the cytosol.
PMCID: PMC3655284  PMID: 23720664
powdery mildew; haustorium; extrahaustorial membrane (EHM); endoplasmic reticulum-associated degradation (ERAD); Sec61 complex; susceptibility factor
10.  Structure and evolution of barley powdery mildew effector candidates 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:694.
Protein effectors of pathogenicity are instrumental in modulating host immunity and disease resistance. The powdery mildew pathogen of grasses Blumeria graminis causes one of the most important diseases of cereal crops. B. graminis is an obligate biotrophic pathogen and as such has an absolute requirement to suppress or avoid host immunity if it is to survive and cause disease.
Here we characterise a superfamily predicted to be the full complement of Candidates for Secreted Effector Proteins (CSEPs) in the fungal barley powdery mildew parasite B. graminis f.sp. hordei. The 491 genes encoding these proteins constitute over 7% of this pathogen’s annotated genes and most were grouped into 72 families of up to 59 members. They were predominantly expressed in the intracellular feeding structures called haustoria, and proteins specifically associated with the haustoria were identified by large-scale mass spectrometry-based proteomics. There are two major types of effector families: one comprises shorter proteins (100–150 amino acids), with a high relative expression level in the haustoria and evidence of extensive diversifying selection between paralogs; the second type consists of longer proteins (300–400 amino acids), with lower levels of differential expression and evidence of purifying selection between paralogs. An analysis of the predicted protein structures underscores their overall similarity to known fungal effectors, but also highlights unexpected structural affinities to ribonucleases throughout the entire effector super-family. Candidate effector genes belonging to the same family are loosely clustered in the genome and are associated with repetitive DNA derived from retro-transposons.
We employed the full complement of genomic, transcriptomic and proteomic analyses as well as structural prediction methods to identify and characterize the members of the CSEPs superfamily in B. graminis f.sp. hordei. Based on relative intron position and the distribution of CSEPs with a ribonuclease-like domain in the phylogenetic tree we hypothesize that the associated genes originated from an ancestral gene, encoding a secreted ribonuclease, duplicated successively by repetitive DNA-driven processes and diversified during the evolution of the grass and cereal powdery mildew lineage.
PMCID: PMC3582587  PMID: 23231440
Host-pathogen interactions; Effector protein structure; Fungal proteomics; Proteogenomics
11.  The role of effectors of biotrophic and hemibiotrophic fungi in infection 
Cellular microbiology  2011;13(12):1849-1857.
Biotrophic and hemibiotrophic fungi are successful groups of plant pathogens that require living plant tissue to survive and complete their life cycle. Members of these groups include the rust fungi and powdery mildews and species in the Ustilago, Cladosporium and Magnaporthe genera. Collectively, they represent some of the most destructive plant parasites, causing huge economic losses and threatening global food security. During plant infection, pathogens synthesise and secrete effector proteins, some of which are translocated into the plant cytosol where they can alter the host’s response to the invading pathogen. In a successful infection, pathogen effectors facilitate suppression of the plant’s immune system and orchestrate the reprogramming of the infected tissue so that it becomes a source of nutrients that are required by the pathogen to support its growth and development. This review summarizes our current understanding of the function of fungal effectors in infection.
PMCID: PMC3218205  PMID: 21848815
12.  Powdery mildew fungal effector candidates share N-terminal Y/F/WxC-motif 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:317.
Powdery mildew and rust fungi are widespread, serious pathogens that depend on developing haustoria in the living plant cells. Haustoria are separated from the host cytoplasm by a plant cell-derived extrahaustorial membrane. They secrete effector proteins, some of which are subsequently transferred across this membrane to the plant cell to suppress defense.
In a cDNA library from barley epidermis containing powdery mildew haustoria, two-thirds of the sequenced ESTs were fungal and represented ~3,000 genes. Many of the most highly expressed genes encoded small proteins with N-terminal signal peptides. While these proteins are novel and poorly related, they do share a three-amino acid motif, which we named "Y/F/WxC", in the N-terminal of the mature proteins. The first amino acid of this motif is aromatic: tyrosine, phenylalanine or tryptophan, and the last is always cysteine. In total, we identified 107 such proteins, for which the ESTs represent 19% of the fungal clones in our library, suggesting fundamental roles in haustoria function. While overall sequence similarity between the powdery mildew Y/F/WxC-proteins is low, they do have a highly similar exon-intron structure, suggesting they have a common origin. Interestingly, searches of public fungal genome and EST databases revealed that haustoria-producing rust fungi also encode large numbers of novel, short proteins with signal peptides and the Y/F/WxC-motif. No significant numbers of such proteins were identified from genome and EST sequences from either fungi which do not produce haustoria or from haustoria-producing Oomycetes.
In total, we identified 107, 178 and 57 such Y/F/WxC-proteins from the barley powdery mildew, the wheat stem rust and the wheat leaf rust fungi, respectively. All together, our findings suggest the Y/F/WxC-proteins to be a new class of effectors from haustoria-producing pathogenic fungi.
PMCID: PMC2886064  PMID: 20487537
13.  Modelling the effect of wheat canopy architecture as affected by sowing density on Septoria tritici epidemics using a coupled epidemic–virtual plant model 
Annals of Botany  2011;108(6):1179-1194.
Background and Aims
The relationship between Septoria tritici, a splash-dispersed disease, and its host is complex because of the interactions between the dynamic plant architecture and the vertical progress of the disease. The aim of this study was to test the capacity of a coupled virtual wheat–Septoria tritici epidemic model (Septo3D) to simulate disease progress on the different leaf layers for contrasted sowing density treatments.
A field experiment was performed with winter wheat ‘Soissons’ grown at three contrasted densities. Plant architecture was characterized to parameterize the wheat model, and disease dynamic was monitored to compare with simulations. Three simulation scenarios, differing in the degree of detail with which plant variability of development was represented, were defined.
Key Results
Despite architectural differences between density treatments, few differences were found in disease progress; only the lower-density treatment resulted in a slightly higher rate of lesion development. Model predictions were consistent with field measurements but did not reproduce the higher rate of lesion progress in the low density. The canopy reconstruction scenario in which inter-plant variability was taken into account yielded the best agreement between measured and simulated epidemics. Simulations performed with the canopy represented by a population of the same average plant deviated strongly from the observations.
It was possible to compare the predicted and measured epidemics on detailed variables, supporting the hypothesis that the approach is able to provide new insights into the processes and plant traits that contribute to the epidemics. On the other hand, the complex and dynamic responses to sowing density made it difficult to test the model precisely and to disentangle the various aspects involved. This could be overcome by comparing more contrasted and/or simpler canopy architectures such as those resulting from quasi-isogenic lines differing by single architectural traits.
PMCID: PMC3189839  PMID: 21724656
Crop architecture; modelling; Septoria tritici; wheat; Triticum aestivum; sowing density; 3-D virtual plant model; plant–pathogen interaction
14.  Monitoring Powdery Mildew of Winter Wheat by Using Moderate Resolution Multi-Temporal Satellite Imagery 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e93107.
Powdery mildew is one of the most serious diseases that have a significant impact on the production of winter wheat. As an effective alternative to traditional sampling methods, remote sensing can be a useful tool in disease detection. This study attempted to use multi-temporal moderate resolution satellite-based data of surface reflectances in blue (B), green (G), red (R) and near infrared (NIR) bands from HJ-CCD (CCD sensor on Huanjing satellite) to monitor disease at a regional scale. In a suburban area in Beijing, China, an extensive field campaign for disease intensity survey was conducted at key growth stages of winter wheat in 2010. Meanwhile, corresponding time series of HJ-CCD images were acquired over the study area. In this study, a number of single-stage and multi-stage spectral features, which were sensitive to powdery mildew, were selected by using an independent t-test. With the selected spectral features, four advanced methods: mahalanobis distance, maximum likelihood classifier, partial least square regression and mixture tuned matched filtering were tested and evaluated for their performances in disease mapping. The experimental results showed that all four algorithms could generate disease maps with a generally correct distribution pattern of powdery mildew at the grain filling stage (Zadoks 72). However, by comparing these disease maps with ground survey data (validation samples), all of the four algorithms also produced a variable degree of error in estimating the disease occurrence and severity. Further, we found that the integration of MTMF and PLSR algorithms could result in a significant accuracy improvement of identifying and determining the disease intensity (overall accuracy of 72% increased to 78% and kappa coefficient of 0.49 increased to 0.59). The experimental results also demonstrated that the multi-temporal satellite images have a great potential in crop diseases mapping at a regional scale.
PMCID: PMC3972229  PMID: 24691435
15.  A mutagenesis-derived broad-spectrum disease resistance locus in wheat 
Wheat leaf rust, stem rust, stripe rust, and powdery mildew caused by the fungal pathogens Puccinia triticina, P. graminis f. sp. tritici, P. striiformis f. sp. tritici, and Blumeria graminis f. sp. tritici, respectively, are destructive diseases of wheat worldwide. Breeding durable disease resistance cultivars rely largely on continually introgressing new resistance genes, especially the genes with different defense mechanisms, into adapted varieties. Here, we describe a new resistance gene obtained by mutagenesis. The mutant, MNR220 (mutagenesis-derived new resistance), enhances resistance to three rusts and powdery mildew, with the characteristics of delayed disease development at the seedling stage and completed resistance at the adult plant stage. Genetic analysis demonstrated that the resistance in MNR220 is conferred by a single semidominant gene mapped on the short arm of chromosome 2B. Gene expression profiling of several pathogenesis-related genes indicated that MNR220 has an elevated and rapid pathogen-induced response. In addition to its potential use in breeding for resistance to multiple diseases, high-resolution mapping and cloning of the disease resistance locus in MNR220 may lead to a better understanding of the regulation of defense responses in wheat.
PMCID: PMC3374107  PMID: 22446929
16.  The effect of environmental heterogeneity on RPW8-mediated resistance to powdery mildews in Arabidopsis thaliana 
Annals of Botany  2012;109(4):833-842.
Background and Aims
The biotic and abiotic environment of interacting hosts and parasites may vary considerably over small spatial and temporal scales. It is essential to understand how different environments affect host disease resistance because this determines frequency of disease and, importantly, heterogeneous environments can retard direct selection and potentially maintain genetic variation for resistance in natural populations.
The effect of different temperatures and soil nutrient conditions on the outcome of infection by a pathogen was quantified in Arabidopsis thaliana. Expression levels of a gene conferring resistance to powdery mildews, RPW8, were compared with levels of disease to test a possible mechanism behind variation in resistance.
Key Results
Most host genotypes changed from susceptible to resistant across environments with the ranking of genotypes differing between treatments. Transcription levels of RPW8 increased after infection and varied between environments, but there was no tight association between transcription and resistance levels.
There is a strong potential for a heterogeneous environment to change the resistance capacity of A. thaliana genotypes and hence the direction and magnitude of selection in the presence of the pathogen. Possible causative links between resistance gene expression and disease resistance are discussed in light of the present results on RPW8.
PMCID: PMC3286285  PMID: 22234559
Genotype × environment interaction; RPW8; Arabidopsis thaliana; Golovinomyces orontii; powdery mildew; qPCR; temperature; plant × pathogen interaction; disease resistance
17.  Genetic Structure and Aggressiveness of Erysiphe necator Populations during Grapevine Powdery Mildew Epidemics ▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2008;74(20):6327-6332.
Isolates of the causal ascomycete of grapevine powdery mildew, Erysiphe necator, correspond to two genetically differentiated groups (A and B) that coexist on the same host. This coexistence was analyzed by investigating temporal changes in the genetic and phenotypic structures of E. necator populations during three epidemics. Group A was present only at the start of the growing season, whereas group B was present throughout all three epidemics. Group A was less aggressive in terms of germination and infection efficiency but was more aggressive than group B in terms of the latency period, lesion diameter, and spore production. Our results are consistent with a temporal differentiation of niches, preventing recombination, and suggest an association between the disease level and the frequencies of genetic groups.
PMCID: PMC2570294  PMID: 18723657
18.  Multiple Candidate Effectors from the Oomycete Pathogen Hyaloperonospora arabidopsidis Suppress Host Plant Immunity 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(11):e1002348.
Oomycete pathogens cause diverse plant diseases. To successfully colonize their hosts, they deliver a suite of effector proteins that can attenuate plant defenses. In the oomycete downy mildews, effectors carry a signal peptide and an RxLR motif. Hyaloperonospora arabidopsidis (Hpa) causes downy mildew on the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana (Arabidopsis). We investigated if candidate effectors predicted in the genome sequence of Hpa isolate Emoy2 (HaRxLs) were able to manipulate host defenses in different Arabidopsis accessions. We developed a rapid and sensitive screening method to test HaRxLs by delivering them via the bacterial type-three secretion system (TTSS) of Pseudomonas syringae pv tomato DC3000-LUX (Pst-LUX) and assessing changes in Pst-LUX growth in planta on 12 Arabidopsis accessions. The majority (∼70%) of the 64 candidates tested positively contributed to Pst-LUX growth on more than one accession indicating that Hpa virulence likely involves multiple effectors with weak accession-specific effects. Further screening with a Pst mutant (ΔCEL) showed that HaRxLs that allow enhanced Pst-LUX growth usually suppress callose deposition, a hallmark of pathogen-associated molecular pattern (PAMP)-triggered immunity (PTI). We found that HaRxLs are rarely strong avirulence determinants. Although some decreased Pst-LUX growth in particular accessions, none activated macroscopic cell death. Fewer HaRxLs conferred enhanced Pst growth on turnip, a non-host for Hpa, while several reduced it, consistent with the idea that turnip's non-host resistance against Hpa could involve a combination of recognized HaRxLs and ineffective HaRxLs. We verified our results by constitutively expressing in Arabidopsis a sub-set of HaRxLs. Several transgenic lines showed increased susceptibility to Hpa and attenuation of Arabidopsis PTI responses, confirming the HaRxLs' role in Hpa virulence. This study shows TTSS screening system provides a useful tool to test whether candidate effectors from eukaryotic pathogens can suppress/trigger plant defense mechanisms and to rank their effectiveness prior to subsequent mechanistic investigation.
Author Summary
Hyaloperonospora arabidopsidis (Hpa) is an obligate biotroph whose population coevolves with its host, Arabidopsis thaliana. The Hpa isolate Emoy2 genome has been sequenced, allowing the discovery of dozens of secreted candidate effectors. We set out to assign functions to these candidate effectors, investigating if they suppress host defenses. We analyzed a sub-set of Hpa candidate effectors (HaRxLs) that carry the RxLR motif, using a bacterial system for in planta delivery. To our surprise, we found that most of the HaRxLs enhanced plant susceptibility on at least some accessions, while few decreased it. These phenotypes were mostly confirmed on Arabidopsis transgenic lines stably expressing HaRxLs that became more susceptible to compatible Hpa isolates. Furthermore, effectors that conferred enhanced virulence generally suppressed callose deposition, a hallmark of plant defense. This indicates that the “effectorome” of Hpa comprises multiple distinct effectors that can attenuate Arabidopsis immunity. We found that many HaRxLs did not confer enhanced virulence on all host accessions, and also that only ∼50% of the effectors that conferred enhanced Pst growth on Arabidopsis, were able to do so on turnip, a non-host for Hpa. Our data reveal interesting HaRxLs for detailed mechanistic investigation in future experiments.
PMCID: PMC3207932  PMID: 22072967
19.  Network epidemiology and plant trade networks 
AoB Plants  2014;6:plu007.
Epidemic models in complex networks are helping us better understand infectious disease outbreaks. This review focuses on the application of new developments in network epidemiology to the study and management of plant diseases. The main aspects covered are: 1) surveys of social networks, 2) models and data about human mobility, 3) epidemic models in directed and hierarchical networks, 4) studies of dynamic networks, and 5) spatial epidemic simulations integrating network data. Because of the increasing amounts of traded plant commodities and the associated rise in introduced plant pests and pathogens, network theory has a great potential in plant science.
Models of epidemics in complex networks are improving our predictive understanding of infectious disease outbreaks. Nonetheless, applying network theory to plant pathology is still a challenge. This overview summarizes some key developments in network epidemiology that are likely to facilitate its application in the study and management of plant diseases. Recent surveys have provided much-needed datasets on contact patterns and human mobility in social networks, but plant trade networks are still understudied. Human (and plant) mobility levels across the planet are unprecedented—there is thus much potential in the use of network theory by plant health authorities and researchers. Given the directed and hierarchical nature of plant trade networks, there is a need for plant epidemiologists to further develop models based on undirected and homogeneous networks. More realistic plant health scenarios would also be obtained by developing epidemic models in dynamic, rather than static, networks. For plant diseases spread by the horticultural and ornamental trade, there is the challenge of developing spatio-temporal epidemic simulations integrating network data. The use of network theory in plant epidemiology is a promising avenue and could contribute to anticipating and preventing plant health emergencies such as European ash dieback.
PMCID: PMC4038442  PMID: 24790128
Complex networks; epidemic threshold; global change; Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus; infectious diseases; information diffusion; network structure; Phytophthora ramorum; scale-free; small-world.
20.  Indirect Effect of a Transgenic Wheat on Aphids through Enhanced Powdery Mildew Resistance 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e46333.
In agricultural ecosystems, arthropod herbivores and fungal pathogens are likely to colonise the same plant and may therefore affect each other directly or indirectly. The fungus that causes powdery mildew (Blumeria graminis tritici) and cereal aphids are important pests of wheat but interactions between them have seldom been investigated. We studied the effects of powdery mildew of wheat on two cereal aphid species, Metopolophium dirhodum and Rhopalosiphum padi. We hypothesized that aphid number and size will be smaller on powdery mildew-infected plants than on non-infected plants. In a first experiment we used six commercially available wheat varieties whereas in the second experiment we used a genetically modified (GM) mildew-resistant wheat line and its non-transgenic sister line. Because the two lines differed only in the presence of the transgene and in powdery mildew resistance, experiment 2 avoided the confounding effect of variety. In both experiments, the number of M. dirhodum but not of R. padi was reduced by powdery mildew infection. Transgenic mildew-resistant lines therefore harboured bigger aphid populations than the non-transgenic lines. For both aphid species individual size was mostly influenced by aphid number. Our results indicate that plants that are protected from a particular pest (powdery mildew) became more favourable for another pest (aphids).
PMCID: PMC3466243  PMID: 23056284
21.  Colonization of Vitis vinifera by a Green Fluorescence Protein-Labeled, gfp-Marked Strain of Xylophilus ampelinus, the Causal Agent of Bacterial Necrosis of Grapevine 
The dynamics of Xylophilus ampelinus were studied in Vitis vinifera cv. Ugni blanc using gfp-marked bacterial strains to evaluate the relative importance of epiphytic and endophytic phases of plant colonization in disease development. Currently, bacterial necrosis of grapevine is of economic importance in vineyards in three regions in France: the Cognac, Armagnac, and Die areas. This disease is responsible for progressive destruction of vine shoots, leading to their death. We constructed gfp-marked strains of the CFBP2098 strain of X. ampelinus for histological studies. We studied the colonization of young plants of V. vinifera cv. Ugni blanc by X. ampelinus after three types of artificial contamination in a growth chamber and in a greenhouse. (i) After wounding of the stem and inoculation, the bacteria progressed down to the crown through the xylem vessels, where they organized into biofilms. (ii) When the bacteria were forced into woody cuttings, they rarely colonized the emerging plantlets. Xylem vessels could play a key role in the multiplication and conservation of the bacteria, rather than being a route for plant colonization. (iii) When bacterial suspensions were sprayed onto the plants, bacteria progressed in two directions: both in emerging organs and down to the crown, thus displaying the importance of epiphytic colonization in disease development.
PMCID: PMC154790  PMID: 12676663
22.  Identification of the dehydrin gene family from grapevine species and analysis of their responsiveness to various forms of abiotic and biotic stress 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:140.
Dehydrins (DHNs) protect plant cells from desiccation damage during environmental stress, and also participate in host resistance to various pathogens. In this study, we aimed to identify and characterize the DHN gene families from Vitis vinifera and wild V. yeshanensis, which is tolerant to both drought and cold, and moderately resistant to powdery mildew.
Four DHN genes were identified in both V. vinifera and V. yeshanensis, which shared a high sequence identity between the two species but little homology between the genes themselves. These genes were designated DHN1, DHN2, DHN3 and DHN4. All four of the DHN proteins were highly hydrophilic and were predicted to be intrinsically disordered, but they differed in their isoelectric points, kinase selectivities and number of functional motifs. Also, the expression profiles of each gene differed appreciably from one another. Grapevine DHN1 was not expressed in vegetative tissues under normal growth conditions, but was induced by drought, cold, heat, embryogenesis, as well as the application of abscisic acid (ABA), salicylic acid (SA), and methyl jasmonate (MeJA). It was expressed earlier in V. yeshanensis under drought conditions than in V. vinifera, and also exhibited a second round of up-regulation in V. yeshanensis following inoculation with Erysiphe necator, which was not apparent in V. vinifera. Like DHN1, DHN2 was induced by cold, heat, embryogenesis and ABA; however, it exhibited no responsiveness to drought, E. necator infection, SA or MeJA, and was also expressed constitutively in vegetative tissues under normal growth conditions. Conversely, DHN3 was only expressed during seed development at extremely low levels, and DHN4 was expressed specifically during late embryogenesis. Neither DHN3 nor DHN4 exhibited responsiveness to any of the treatments carried out in this study. Interestingly, the presence of particular cis-elements within the promoter regions of each gene was positively correlated with their expression profiles.
The grapevine DHN family comprises four divergent members. While it is likely that their functions overlap to some extent, it seems that DHN1 provides the main stress-responsive function. In addition, our results suggest a close relationship between expression patterns, physicochemical properties, and cis-regulatory elements in the promoter regions of the DHN genes.
PMCID: PMC3460772  PMID: 22882870
Grapevine; Dehydrin; Stress-induced expression; Powdery mildew; Promoter
23.  A comparative hidden Markov model analysis pipeline identifies proteins characteristic of cereal-infecting fungi 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:807.
Fungal pathogens cause devastating losses in economically important cereal crops by utilising pathogen proteins to infect host plants. Secreted pathogen proteins are referred to as effectors and have thus far been identified by selecting small, cysteine-rich peptides from the secretome despite increasing evidence that not all effectors share these attributes.
We take advantage of the availability of sequenced fungal genomes and present an unbiased method for finding putative pathogen proteins and secreted effectors in a query genome via comparative hidden Markov model analyses followed by unsupervised protein clustering. Our method returns experimentally validated fungal effectors in Stagonospora nodorum and Fusarium oxysporum as well as the N-terminal Y/F/WxC-motif from the barley powdery mildew pathogen. Application to the cereal pathogen Fusarium graminearum reveals a secreted phosphorylcholine phosphatase that is characteristic of hemibiotrophic and necrotrophic cereal pathogens and shares an ancient selection process with bacterial plant pathogens. Three F. graminearum protein clusters are found with an enriched secretion signal. One of these putative effector clusters contains proteins that share a [SG]-P-C-[KR]-P sequence motif in the N-terminal and show features not commonly associated with fungal effectors. This motif is conserved in secreted pathogenic Fusarium proteins and a prime candidate for functional testing.
Our pipeline has successfully uncovered conservation patterns, putative effectors and motifs of fungal pathogens that would have been overlooked by existing approaches that identify effectors as small, secreted, cysteine-rich peptides. It can be applied to any pathogenic proteome data, such as microbial pathogen data of plants and other organisms.
PMCID: PMC3914424  PMID: 24252298
Fungal pathogens; Comparative genomics; Effectors; Fusarium graminearum; Cereal host; Hidden Markov model; Protein structure
24.  VpRFP1, a novel C4C4-type RING finger protein gene from Chinese wild Vitis pseudoreticulata, functions as a transcriptional activator in defence response of grapevine 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2011;62(15):5671-5682.
RING finger proteins comprise a large family and play important roles in regulation of growth and development, hormone signalling, and responses to biotic and abiotic stresses in plants. In this study, the identification and functional characterization of a C4C4-type RING finger protein gene from the Chinese wild grapevine Vitis pseudoreticulata (designated VpRFP1) are reported. VpRFP1 was initially identified as an expressed sequence tag (EST) from a cDNA library constructed from leaves of V. pseudoreticulata inoculated with the grapevine powdery mildew Uncinula necator. Sequence analysis of the deduced VpRFP1 protein based on the full-length cDNA revealed an N-terminal nuclear localization signal (NLS) and a C-terminal C4C4-type RING finger motif with the consensus sequence Cys-X2-Cys-X13-Cys-X1-Cys-X4-Cys-X2-Cys-X10-Cys-X2-Cys. Upon inoculation with U. necator, expression of VpRFP1 was rapidly induced to higher levels in mildew-resistant V. pseudoreticulata plants. In contrast, expression of VpRFP1 was down-regulated in mildew-susceptible V. vinifera plants. Western blotting using an antibody raised against VpRFP1 showed that VpRFP1 was also induced to higher levels in V. pseudoreticulata plants at 12–48 hours post-inoculation (hpi). However, there was only slight increase in VpRFP in V. vinifera plants in the same time frame, even though a more significant increase was observed at 96–144 hpi in these plants. Results from transactivation assays in yeast showed that the RING finger motif of VpRFP1 exhibited some activity of transcriptional activation; however, no activity was seen with the full-length VpRFP1. Overexpression of VpRFP1 in Arabidopsis plants was found to enhance resistance to Arabidopsis powdery mildew Golovinomyces cichoracearum, which seemed to be correlated with increased transcript levels of AtPR1 and AtPR2 in the pathogen-infected tissues. In addition, the Arabidopsis transgenic lines showed enhanced resistance to a virulent bacterial pathogen Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato DC3000. Taken together, the results suggested that VpRFP1 may be a transcriptional activator of defence-related genes in grapevines.
PMCID: PMC3223060  PMID: 21862480
C4C4-type RING finger; Chinese wild Vitis pseudoreticulata; disease resistance; powdery mildew; VpRFP1
25.  Loss of Function in Mlo Orthologs Reduces Susceptibility of Pepper and Tomato to Powdery Mildew Disease Caused by Leveillula taurica 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e70723.
Powdery mildew disease caused by Leveillula taurica is a serious fungal threat to greenhouse tomato and pepper production. In contrast to most powdery mildew species which are epiphytic, L. taurica is an endophytic fungus colonizing the mesophyll tissues of the leaf. In barley, Arabidopsis, tomato and pea, the correct functioning of specific homologues of the plant Mlo gene family has been found to be required for pathogenesis of epiphytic powdery mildew fungi. The aim of this study was to investigate the involvement of the Mlo genes in susceptibility to the endophytic fungus L. taurica. In tomato (Solanum lycopersicum), a loss-of-function mutation in the SlMlo1 gene results in resistance to powdery mildew disease caused by Oidium neolycopersici. When the tomato Slmlo1 mutant was inoculated with L. taurica in this study, it proved to be less susceptible compared to the control, S. lycopersicum cv. Moneymaker. Further, overexpression of SlMlo1 in the tomato Slmlo1 mutant enhanced susceptibility to L. taurica. In pepper, the CaMlo2 gene was isolated by applying a homology-based cloning approach. Compared to the previously identified CaMlo1 gene, the CaMlo2 gene is more similar to SlMlo1 as shown by phylogenetic analysis, and the expression of CaMlo2 is up-regulated at an earlier time point upon L. taurica infection. However, results of virus-induced gene silencing suggest that both CaMlo1 and CaMlo2 may be involved in the susceptibility of pepper to L. taurica. The fact that overexpression of CaMlo2 restored the susceptibility of the tomato Slmlo1 mutant to O. neolycopersici and increased its susceptibility to L. taurica confirmed the role of CaMlo2 acting as a susceptibility factor to different powdery mildews, though the role of CaMlo1 as a co-factor for susceptibility cannot be excluded.
PMCID: PMC3726601  PMID: 23923019

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