Plants evoke innate immunity against microbial challenges upon recognition of pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs), such as fungal cell wall chitin. Nevertheless, pathogens may circumvent the host PAMP-triggered immunity. We previously reported that the ascomycete Magnaporthe oryzae, a famine-causing rice pathogen, masks cell wall surfaces with α-1,3-glucan during invasion. Here, we show that the surface α-1,3-glucan is indispensable for the successful infection of the fungus by interfering with the plant's defense mechanisms. The α-1,3-glucan synthase gene MgAGS1 was not essential for infectious structure development but was required for infection in M. oryzae. Lack or degradation of surface α-1,3-glucan increased fungal susceptibility towards chitinase, suggesting the protective role of α-1,3-glucan against plants' antifungal enzymes during infection. Furthermore, rice plants secreting bacterial α-1,3-glucanase (AGL-rice) showed strong resistance not only to M. oryzae but also to the phylogenetically distant ascomycete Cochlioborus miyabeanus and the polyphagous basidiomycete Rhizoctonia solani; the histocytochemical analysis of the latter two revealed that α-1,3-glucan also concealed cell wall chitin in an infection-specific manner. Treatment with α-1,3-glucanase in vitro caused fragmentation of infectious hyphae in R. solani but not in M. oryzae or C. miyabeanus, indicating that α-1,3-glucan is also involved in maintaining infectious structures in some fungi. Importantly, rapid defense responses were evoked (a few hours after inoculation) in the AGL-rice inoculated with M. oryzae, C. miyabeanus and R. solani as well as in non-transgenic rice inoculated with the ags1 mutant. Taken together, our results suggest that α-1,3-glucan protected the fungal cell wall from degradative enzymes secreted by plants even from the pre-penetration stage and interfered with the release of PAMPs to delay innate immune defense responses. Because α-1,3-glucan is nondegradable in plants, it is reasonable that many fungal plant pathogens utilize α-1,3-glucan in the innate immune evasion mechanism and some in maintaining the structures.
Magnaporthe oryzae, Cochlioborus miyabeanus, and Rhizoctonia solani are the top three fungal pathogens that are responsible for devastating damage to the production of rice, a staple cereal for half of the world's population. These fungal pathogens infect host plants despite the plants' innate immunity, which is activated upon recognition of a conserved cell wall component in fungi, such as chitin. Fungal pathogens seem to have evading mechanism(s) against the host innate immunity; however, the mechanisms are still unclear. In this study, we discovered a novel mechanism that is commonly used by fungal pathogens to prevent host innate immunity. In this mechanism, fungal pathogens mask the cell wall surfaces with α-1,3-glucan, a polysaccharide that plants cannot degrade. In fact, a transgenic rice secreting a bacterial α-1,3-glucanase, which is able to remove α-1,3-glucan on the fungal surfaces, obtained strong resistance to all of those fungal pathogens. We also showed that plants rapidly activated defense responses against fungi (even before the fungal penetration) when α-1,3-glucan on the fungal surfaces were damaged or removed. Our study suggests that fungal surface α-1,3-glucan interferes with host immunity in many fungal pathogens and that α-1,3-glucan is a potential target for controlling various fungal diseases in plants.