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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Crop Production and Pest Control Research

Title: Finished genome of the fungal wheat pathogen Mycosphaerella graminicola reveals dispensome structure, chromosome plasticity and stealth pathogenesis)

item Goodwin, Stephen - Steve
item M'barek, Sarrah ben
item Dhillon, Braham
item Wittenberg, Alexander h.
item Crane, Charles
item Van der lee, Theo a.
item Grimwood, Jane
item Aerts, Andrea
item Antoniw, John
item Bailey, Andy
item Bluhm, Burt
item Bowler, Judith
item Bristow, Jim
item Canto-canche, Blondy
item Churchill, Alice
item Conde-ferraez, Laura
item Cools, Hans
item Coutinho, Pedro
item Csukai, Michael
item Dehal, Paramvir
item De wit, Pierre
item Donzelli, Bruno
item Foster, Andres
item Hammond-kosack, Kim
item Hane, James
item Henrissat, Bernard
item Killian, Andrzej
item Koopmann, Edda
item Kourmpetis, Yiannis
item Kuzniar, Arnold
item Lindquist, Erika
item Lombard, Vincent
item Maliepaard, Chris
item Martins, Natalia
item Mahrabi, Rahim
item Oliver, Richard
item Ponomarenko, Alisa
item Rudd, Jason
item Salamov, Asaf
item Schmutz, Jeremy
item Schouten, Henk
item Shapiro, Harris
item Stergiopoulos, Ioannis
item Torriani, Stefano f.
item Tu, Hank
item De vries, Ronald
item Wiebenga, Ad
item Zwiers, Lute-harm
item Grigoriev, Igor
item Kema, Gert h.

Submitted to: PLoS Genetics
Publication Type: Peer reviewed journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/28/2011
Publication Date: 6/9/2011
Citation: Goodwin, S.B., M'Barek, S., Dhillon, B., Wittenberg, A.J., Crane, C.F., Van Der Lee, T.J., Grimwood, J., Aerts, A., Antoniw, J., Bailey, A., Bluhm, B., Bowler, J., Bristow, J., Canto-Canche, B., Churchill, A., Conde-Ferraez, L., Cools, H., Coutinho, P.M., Csukai, M., Dehal, P., De Wit, P., Donzelli, B., Foster, A.J., Hammond-Kosack, K., Hane, J., Henrissat, B., Killian, A., Koopmann, E., Kourmpetis, Y., Kuzniar, A., Lindquist, E., Lombard, V., Maliepaard, C., Martins, N., Mahrabi, R., Oliver, R., Ponomarenko, A., Rudd, J., Salamov, A., Schmutz, J., Schouten, H.J., Shapiro, H., Stergiopoulos, I., Torriani, S.F., Tu, H., De Vries, R.P., Wiebenga, A., Zwiers, L., Grigoriev, I.V., Kema, G.J. 2011. Finished genome of the fungal wheat pathogen Mycosphaerella graminicola reveals dispensome structure, chromosome plasticity and stealth pathogenesis. PLoS Genetics. Available at:

Interpretive Summary: The plant-pathogenic fungus Mycosphaerella graminicola (asexual stage: Septoria tritici) causes Septoria tritici blotch of wheat. This disease can cause economically important damage of wheat crops and is a potential threat to global food production. Control of the disease has been hampered by a limited understanding of the genetic and biochemical bases of pathogenicity, including mechanisms of infection and of resistance in the host. Unlike most other plant pathogens, M. graminicola has a long latent period during which it seems able to evade host defenses, but the genetic basis for this trait is not known. To address this problem, the genome of the fungus was sequenced to completion through the Community Sequencing Program of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute. The finished genome sequence contains 21 chromosomes, eight of which could be lost with no visible effect on the fungus so are dispensable. The dispensable chromosomes were different from those in the core genome and appear to have originated by ancient horizontal gene transfer from an unknown donor species. A surprising feature of the M. graminicola genome was a low number of genes for enzymes that break down plant cell walls; many of these genes may have been lost during evolution to evade detection by plant defense mechanisms leading to the current stealth pathogenicity. This information will be useful to fungal geneticists and evolutionary biologists to better understand the genetics and evolution of dispensable chromosomes and stealth pathogenicity in M. graminicola. Fungal biologists can use the sequence to knock out gene expression for functional genomics analyses of interacting genetic networks. Plant pathologists may be able to use this information to design better strategies for disease management, particularly once the biochemical bases for the genetic interactions between host and pathogen are better understood.

Technical Abstract: A finished genome was obtained for Mycosphaerella graminicola, the fungal cause of septoria tritici blotch and a global threat to wheat production, containing thirteen core and eight dispensable chromosomes. The latter, called collectively the dispensome, were dynamic in field and progeny isolates. They were distinct in structure, gene and repeat content but contained parts from each core chromosome, suggesting ancient horizontal gene transfer followed by elevated recombination as the major forces driving their evolution. The genome of M. graminicola had far fewer genes for cell wall-degrading enzymes and secondary metabolites compared to other plant pathogens. The stealth pathogenesis of M. graminicola probably involves degradation of proteins rather than carbohydrates to evade host defenses during the biotrophic stage of infection and may have evolved from an endophytic ancestor.

Last Modified: 8/24/2016
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