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The first seven days: spatiotemporal transcriptome analysis of infection of a wheat flower by the ergot pathogen Claviceps purpurea

Anna Gordon: NIAB

<div><em>Claviceps purpurea,</em> the causal fungus of ergot, poses a threat to human and animal health through the hazardous ingestion of ergot alkaloids. <em>C. purpurea</em> infects cereals via the receptive stigma hairs of a developing flower, with the hyphae then colonising the ovary tissue and producing an overwintering fungal structure, known as an ergot sclerotia. In this study we analysed the interaction between a <em>C. purpurea</em> isolate from the UK and a male sterile hexaploid wheat line, assessing gene transcription across eight timepoints over the crucial first week of infection. We precisely dissected wheat flowers, using confocal microscopy to image fungal development and constructed an interactive biological map tracking the infection of host tissue, and the corresponding expansion and proliferation of the pathogen. Here, we relate this biological time course to transcriptional changes in the host in defence, photosynthesis and plant hormone pathways, and to coupled changes in pathogen development and alkaloid biosynthesis.</div>