Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, Purdue University, 915 W. State Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907, U.S.A.
Fusarium verticillioides, a fungal pathogen of maize, produces fumonisin mycotoxins that adversely affect human and animal health. Basic questions remain unanswered regarding the interactions between the host plant and the fungus that lead to the accumulation of fumonisins in maize kernels. In this study, we evaluated the role of kernel endosperm composition in regulating fumonisin B1 (FB1) biosynthesis. We found that kernels lacking starch due to physiological immaturity did not accumulate FB1. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction analysis indicated that kernel development also affected the expression of fungal genes involved in FB1 biosynthesis, starch metabolism, and nitrogen regulation. A mutant strain of F. verticillioides with a disrupted α-amylase gene was impaired in its ability to produce FB1 on starchy kernels, and both the wild-type and mutant strains produced significantly less FB1 on a high-amylose kernel mutant of maize. When grown on a defined medium with amylose as the sole carbon source, the wild-type strain produced only trace amounts of FB1, but it produced large amounts of FB1 when grown on amylopectin or dextrin, a product of amylopectin hydrolysis. We conclude that amylopectin induces FB1 production in F. verticillioides. This study provides new insight regarding the interaction between the fungus and maize kernel during pathogenesis and highlights important areas that need further study.