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Poster: Molecular & Cellular Plant-Microbe Interactions: MPMI


A dynamic regulatory network model underlying stomatal infection in Cercospora zeae-maydis
J. RIDENOUR (1), B. Bluhm (1) (1) University of Arkansas, U.S.A.

Cercospora zeae-maydis causes gray leaf spot of maize, which is considered to be one of the most important foliar diseases of maize worldwide. Intriguingly, C. zeae-maydis has evolved an infection strategy that exploits host stomata. Prior to entering the host, the fungus undergoes a series of defined morphogenetic transitions collectively termed pre-infectious development. Despite the importance of pre-infectious development, the underlying genetics are poorly understood. Genetic regulatory network (GRN) modeling offers a novel approach to understand the complexity underlying plant-pathogen interactions. The overarching goal of this project is to utilize GRN modeling to identify central regulatory hubs that control pre-infectious development in C. zeae-maydis. To this end, we first developed a methodology to collect fungal tissue from inoculated maize during pre-infectious development and extract RNA of sufficient quality for RNA sequencing (RNA-seq). RNA-seq data is being generated via the Ion Torrent platform, and will be used to generate a GRN model. Preliminary transcriptome analysis has revealed that genes involved in transcriptional regulation, signaling, and stress and defense are enriched during pre-infectious development. Defining pre-infectious development at the systems level will provide mechanistic insight into the developmental program employed by C. zeae-maydis and augment efforts to identify antifungal targets and improve disease resistance.