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Local Modulation of Host pH by Colletotrichum Species as a Mechanism to Increase Virulence

September 2001 , Volume 14 , Number  9
Pages  1,105 - 1,113

Dov Prusky , 1 , 2 James L. McEvoy , 1 Britta Leverentz , 1 and William S. Conway 1

1Produce Quality and Safety Laboratory, Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Beltsville, MD 20705, U.S.A.; 2Department of Postharvest Science of Fresh Produce, Institute for Technology and Storage of Agricultural Products, The Volcani Center, Agricultural Research Organization, P. O. Box 6, Bet Dagan 50250, Israel

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Accepted 5 June 2001.

The phytopathogenic fungus Colletotrichum gloeosporioides produces one pectate lyase (PL) that is a key virulence factor in disease development. During growth of C. gloeosporioides, Colletotrichum acutatum, and Colletotrichum coccodes in acidified yeast extract medium, the fungus secreted ammonia and increased the medium pH. Ammonia accumulation and the consequent pH change increased as a function of initial pH and buffer capacity of the medium. PL secretion by C. gloeosporioides correspondingly increased as the pH of the medium increased. The C. gloeosporioides pelB gene-disrupted mutant was able to increase ammonia accumulation and pH of the media similarly to the wild-type isolate. C. gloeosporioides in avocado, C. coccodes in tomato, and C. acutatum in apple showed ammonia accumulation in the infected area where pH increased to 7.5 to 8 and PL activity is optima. In nonhost interactions where C. gloeosporioides was inoculated in apples, the addition of ammonia-releasing compounds significantly enhanced pathogenicity to levels similar to those caused by the compatible C. acutatum-apple interaction. The results therefore suggest the importance of ammonia secretion as a virulence factor, enhancing environmental pH and pathogenicity of the Colletotrichum species.

The American Phytopathological Society, 2001