Virulence in plant pathogenic fungi is controlled through a variety of cellular pathways in response to the host environment. Nitrogen limitation has been proposed to act as a key signal to trigger the in planta expression of virulence genes. Moreover, a conserved Pathogenicity mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascade is strictly required for plant infection in a wide range of pathogens. We investigated the relationship between nitrogen signaling and the Pathogenicity MAPK cascade in controlling infectious growth of the vascular wilt fungus Fusarium oxysporum. Several MAPKactivated virulence functions such as invasive growth, vegetative hyphal fusion and host adhesion were strongly repressed in the presence of the preferred nitrogen source ammonium. Repression of these functions by ammonium was abolished by L-Methionine sulfoximine (MSX) or rapamycin, two specific inhibitors of Gln synthetase and the protein kinase TOR (Target Of Rapamycin), respectively, and was dependent on the bZIP protein MeaB. Supplying tomato plants with ammonium rather than nitrate resulted in a significant delay of vascular wilt symptoms caused by the F. oxysporum wild type strain, but not by the ΔmeaB mutant. Ammonium also repressed invasive growth in two other pathogens, the rice blast fungus Magnaporthe oryzae and the wheat head blight pathogen Fusarium graminearum. Our results suggest the presence of a conserved nitrogen-responsive pathway that operates via TOR and MeaB to control infectious growth in plant pathogenic fungi.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Plant Science