Spore germination fluid of Alternaria panax, the causal agent of Alternaria blight of American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), collected from water droplets or aqueous ginseng leaf extracts produced visible water-soaked lesions on wounded, detached leaflets after incubation for 48 h. Maximum development of brown, necrotic spots occurred 4 to 5 days after inoculation on attached and detached ginseng leaflets. Of 15 plant species tested, only American ginseng was susceptible to applications of spore inoculum or spore germination fluid. The phytotoxic activity of the spore germination fluid was destroyed by heat and treatment with proteinase A. The phytotoxic factor was retained by an ultrafiltration membrane with a 30-kDa molecular mass cut-off. Purification of the phytotoxic protein, named AP-toxin, was performed by anion exchange and gel filtration chromatography. Bioactive fractions eluted as a single peak. By comparison with protein standards, a molecular mass of 35 kDa was estimated for the native protein. The denatured protein toxin also had a mass of 35 kDa as determined by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis analysis. Production of the protein toxin was induced on American ginseng leaflets and water extracts of ginseng leaves but not on leaves of other nonhost plants and their water extracts. The results show that A. panax produces a host-specific, proteinaceous toxin during colonization and pathogenesis of ginseng leaves.
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