Department of Plant Pathology, Washington State University, Pullman 99164-6430, U.S.A.
We have previously defined four single-gene mutations, con1, con2, con4, and con7, that control various stages of spore morphogenesis in the rice blast fungus. To delineate the developmental pathway of spore morphogenesis, we investigated the interactions among these morphogenetic genes by generating strains with double mutations via transformation-mediated gene disruption. Plasmids containing portions of the inactivated CON4 and CON7 genes were introduced into strains harboring single mutation to produce double mutants. Interaction between con1 and con4 resulted in reduced vegetative growth and suppression of sporulation. Interaction between con1 and con7 suppressed spore production but not vegetative growth. The con2/con4 and con4/con7 double mutants produced hybrid spore types with characteristic features of both parental mutants. The con2/con7 mutant produced con2 type spores, indicating that con2 is epistatic to con7 in spore morphogenesis. The epistatic relationship, however, reversed when traits related to pathogenesis were considered. Double mutants harboring the con7 mutation could not form appressoria or colonize plant tissue, indicating that con7 is epistatic to con2 and con4 in appressorium formation and pathogenesis. Thus, morphogenetic genes interact at multiple levels leading to different epistatic relationships in the pathways of spore morphogenesis, appressorium formation, and pathogenesis.