Sainsbury Laboratory, John Innes Centre, Colney Lane, Norwich NR4 7UH, U.K.
Although plant diseases are usually characterized by the part of the plant that is affected (e.g., leaf spots, root rots, wilts), surprisingly little is known about the factors that condition the ability of pathogens to colonize different plant tissues. Here we demonstrate that the leaf blast pathogen Magnaporthe grisea also can infect plant roots, and we exploit this finding to distinguish tissue-specific and general requirements for plant infection. Tests of a M. grisea mutant collection identified some mutants that were defective specifically in infection of either leaves or roots, and others such as the map kinase mutant pmk1 that were generally defective in pathogenicity. Conservation of a functional PMK1-related MAP kinase in the root pathogen Gaeumannomyces graminis was also demonstrated. Exploitation of the ability of M. grisea to infect distinct plant tissues thus represents a powerful tool for the comprehensive dissection of genetic determinants of tissue specificity and global requirements for plant infection.