Plant Cell Biology Group, Research School of Biological Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra ACT 2601, Australia
Polygalacturonases (PGs) are secreted by fungal pathogens during saprophytic and parasitic growth, and their degradation of pectin in the plant cell wall is believed to play a major role in tissue invasion and maceration. In this study, PG activity was demonstrated in culture filtrates of the oo-mycete plant pathogen, Phytophthora cinnamomi. A P. cinnamomi pg gene fragment amplified using degenerate primers based on conserved regions in fungal and plant PGs was used to isolate 17 complete P. cinnamomi pg genes and pseudogenes from a genomic library and partial sequence for another two genes. Gel blotting of genomic DNA indicated that there may be even more pg genes in the P. cinnamomi genome. P. cinnamomi pg gene sequences were expressed in PG-deficient yeast and found to confer PG activity, thereby confirming their functional identity. The predicted mature P. cinnamomi PGs fall into subgroups that exhibit large differences in the extent of N-glycosylation, isoelectric points, and N- and C-terminal structure. Evidence for birth-and-death and reticulate evolution in the P. cinnamomi pg gene family was obtained, and some codons for surface exposed residues in the P. cinnamomi PGs were shown to have been subject to diversifying selection. Contrary to accepted phylogenies for other proteins, phylogenetic analysis of the P. cinnamomi PGs revealed a closer relationship with PGs from true fungi than with those from plants.