Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Institut für Botanik, Schloβgarten 3, D-48149 Münster, Germany
To identify signal transduction pathways of the gray mold fungus Botrytis cinerea involved in host infection, we used heterologous hybridization and a polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based approach to isolate two genes (bcg1 and bcg2) encoding α subunits of heterotrimeric GTP-binding proteins. Both genes have homologues in other fungi: bcg1 is a member of the Gαi class, whereas bcg2 has similarities to the magC gene of Magnaporthe grisea and the gna-2 gene of Neurospora crassa. Reverse-transcription (RT)-PCR experiments showed clearly that both genes are expressed at very early stages in infected bean leaves. Gene replacement experiments were performed for both genes. bcg1 null mutants differ in colony morphology from the wild-type strain, do not secrete extracellular proteases, and show clearly reduced pathogenicity on bean and tomato. Conidia germination and penetration of plant tissue is not disturbed in bcg1 mutants, but the infection process stops after formation of primary lesions. In contrast, bcg2 mutants show wild-type colony morphology in axenic culture and are only slightly reduced in pathogenicity. Complementation of bcg1 mutants with the wild-type gene copy led to the full recovery of colony morphology, protease secretion, and pathogenicity on both host plants. Application of exogenous cyclic AMP restored the wild-type growth pattern of bcg1 mutants, but not the protease secretion, implicating an essential role of BCG1 in different signaling pathways.